A group of lawmakers from Japan's ruling party claimed yesterday that after a monthlong review they have determined the number of people killed by Japanese troops during the infamous "Rape of Nanking" has been grossly inflated.
Nariaki Nakayama, head of the group, said documents from the Japanese government's archives indicated some 20,000 people were killed — about one-tenth of the more commonly cited figure of from 150,000 to 200,000 — in the 1937 attack. China says as many as 300,000 people were killed.
"We conclude that the death toll in the Nanking advance was nothing more or less than the death toll that would be expected in a normal battle," Nakayama told a news conference.
He said the study, which was initiated in part because this year marks the 70th anniversary of the slaughter, determined there was no violation of international law.
"We have no intention to fan the problem over the interpretation of wartime history between the two countries, but we want to achieve justice," he said. "We cannot ignore propaganda trying to portray the Japanese as brutal people, so we decided to examine primary documents to restore the honor of the Japanese people."
Nakayama distributed to the news conference a document submitted in 1938 by China's Nationalist government to the League of Nations, the forerunner to the UN, calling for Japan to be denounced for killing 20,000 people in the attack.
The Chinese representative to the league, Wellington Koo, (顧維鈞) quoted newspaper reports from the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post dated Jan. 28, 1938.
Nakayama accused China's government of subsequently inflating the numbers for propaganda purposes.
Toru Toida, another member of the group, demanded that photos portraying the Japanese military in a negative light be removed from Chinese war memorials.
"We are absolutely positive that there was no massacre in Nanking," Toida said.
Memorials to the killings are scattered throughout the city, and the main memorial — built on the site of a mass grave — is visited by tens of thousands of Chinese schoolchildren each year.
Nanjing suffered a rampage of murder, rape and looting by Japanese troops in 1937 that became known as "The Rape of Nanking," using the name by which the city was known in the West at that time.
Historians generally agree the Japanese army slaughtered at least 150,000 civilians and raped tens of thousands of women.
Nakayama's group is right of center within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), but many Japanese conservatives are disgruntled over what they claim are exaggerated stories of Japanese brutality during World War II.
In another controversy, historians say as many as 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines, worked in Japanese military brothels in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were forced to work as sex slaves by military authorities and were held against their will.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also president of the LDP, sparked a controversy earlier this year by saying there is no evidence women were coerced.
Since then, he has distanced himself from the comment.
He had no immediate response to the claims of Nakayama's group.
see japan on page 5
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