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China offers olive branch to Japan on Nanking Massacre anniversary

China struck a restrained tone on the 80th anniversary of the Nanking Massacre, saying the country would "look forward" and deepen its friendship with its neighbour Japan despite historical misgivings.

Chinese president Xi Jinping led a citywide minute of silence but did not speak as Yu Zhengsheng, head of China's parliamentary advisory body, urged China and Japan to draw lessons from history and look forward to the future.

China has frequently criticised Japan for not showing sufficient contrition for the brutality of its expansionist campaign that swept across Asia during the first half of the 20th century.

China's government and a 1946 international postwar tribunal say at least 200,000 civilians were killed by Japanese troops entering China's then capital in December 1937 following bitter street fighting in Shanghai.

Some right-wing Japanese politicians, including prime minister Shinzo Abe, have downplayed the death toll or denied outright that the Nanking atrocity even happened.

Wearing a white flower on his lapel, Mr Xi watched as Chinese soldiers bearing large funeral wreaths marched slowly past a memorial showing the figure 300,000, the number of massacre victims, according to official Chinese estimates.

Denial by conservative Japanese quarters of the country's wartime history has frequently incensed neighbours that bore the brunt of its militarism and colonial rule, including China, South Korea and the Philippines, and it continues to fuel debate in contemporary Japan.

A Japanese hotel chain attracted condemnation in January when it distributed a book questioning Japan's use of forced sex workers and calling the Nanking Massacre a fake.

Nanking, an ancient Chinese capital 200 miles west of Shanghai, is now commonly known as Nanjing.

China's ruling Communist Party, particularly under Mr Xi, has often stoked nationalism and allowed anti-Japanese sentiment to build.

But relations have improved in recent months, with Mr Xi and Mr Abe posing together with smiles and pledging to seek a "fresh start" at a November summit in Vietnam.

AP

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