Chinese authorities in Nanjing have suspended official contacts with Nagoya after the Japanese city’s mayor cast doubt over the well-documented massacre of Chinese civilians by Japanese troops in 1937.
China says 300,000 people were killed that year in an orgy of murder, rape and destruction when the eastern city of Nanjing — then the capital — fell to the Japanese army and the incident has haunted Sino-Japanese ties ever since.
According to Japan’s Kyodo news agency, Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, told Liu Zhiwei (劉志偉), a high-level Chinese official visiting from Nanjing, that he believes only “conventional acts of combat” took place.
During talks on Monday between the two — whose cities were twinned in 1978 — Kawamura, whose father was in Nanjing in 1945 at the end of the Japanese occupation of China, reportedly denied that mass murders and rapes happened.
Some Japanese academics also contest the number of casualties in Nanjing and say estimates range from 20,000 to 200,000.
Kawamura’s comments have triggered outrage in China and the Nanjing municipal party committee announced late on Tuesday that it had suspended ties with Nagoya.
“In view of the current denial by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura of historical facts pertaining to the Nanjing Massacre, which seriously hurt Nanjing people’s feelings, Nanjing city is suspending official contact with the government of Nagoya,” it said on its official account on a Chinese microblogging site.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) on Monday also waded into the controversy, hitting back at Kawamura’s comments.
“The Nanjing Massacre was a brutal crime committed by Japanese military during their war and invasion, and there is irrefutable evidence,” he said.
“Some Japanese people should correctly understand … that period of history and earnestly draw lessons from history,” he said.
Many people in China still feel resentment toward Japan, which waged a war against its giant neighbor from 1937 to 1945, occupying vast swathes of the country.
Relations between the two countries have steadily warmed since 2006, when they began to put behind them decades of distrust, but ties are still fragile and have been rocked by spot incidents in recent years.