NAGOYA--Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura refuses to back down from his assertion that the Nanking Massacre of 1937 never happened.
"I do not believe that 300,000 unarmed Chinese residents were massacred by the Japanese military," Kawamura said at a Feb. 27 news conference. "So I will not retract the statement I made that the Nanking Incident never occurred."
Because his initial comment provoked anguish in China, a number of representatives from foreign media attended the news conference.
Kawamura started out by reading from a prepared statement about the recent coverage regarding his earlier remark.
After repeating his past arguments that no systematic massacre was carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army, Kawamura said, "It would be regrettable if I failed to transmit my true intention in proposing an exchange of views with Nanjing city officials as a means of deepening mutual understanding."
When asked whether any massacre had indeed occurred, Kawamura said, "That would become an issue of what is meant by massacre. I want to hold frank discussions (with Nanjing)."
One of the foreign media organizations represented at the news conference was Phoenix Television, a satellite broadcaster based in Hong Kong.
A reporter from Phoenix TV asked whether it was appropriate for Kawamura to make such a comment to a delegation from Nanjing, the name by which the city in eastern China is now known.
Nagoya had a sister-city relationship with Nanjing, but the Chinese city suspended exchange activities after Kawamura went public with his views.
As for his meeting with the delegation from Nanjing, Kawamura said the discussions "proceeded in a cordial manner, so I believe the comment was not something out of line (for the Nanjing officials)."
Late last week, Kawamura indicated he would hold a news conference on Feb. 27 to explain his earlier comment, giving rise to speculation that he might change his tone.
Then on Feb. 24, Tokyo's nationalist governor, Shintaro Ishihara, weighed in on the issue. In a news conference, Ishihara said, "I want to defend him (Kawamura) because the comment is correct."
Aides to Kawamura said Ishihara's remark had emboldened their boss.
Meanwhile, Osaka's reformist Mayor Toru Hashimoto criticized Kawamura for raising the issue.
"A publicly elected head of a local government is not a historian," Hashimoto said at a Feb. 27 news conference. "Any comment about historical facts will have to be based on past knowledge and should be made very carefully."
Exchanges between Japan and China have been affected by the controversy.
On Feb. 27, it was decided to postpone an event scheduled for March 2 in Nanjing involving Yasuhiro Yamashita, the judoka who won a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, as well as other Japanese participants. The group was to hold a judo class in Nanjing.
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