BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese newspaper published a map of Japan with mushroom clouds rising above Hiroshima and Nagasaki, provoking outrage on Tuesday from Tokyo's foreign minister, who is from the first of the cities to be obliterated.
Tensions between the Asian powers are high due to a series of issues ranging from a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea to recent moves by Tokyo to reinterpret its pacifist constitution.
The Chongqing Youth Daily, a newspaper linked to the Communist Youth League in the southwestern megacity, last week carried the map in a full-page advertisement under the title "Japan wants a war again", according to a posting on its official account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Japan's full-scale invasion of China in 1937 left 20 million Chinese dead, according to Beijing's estimates. It ended with Tokyo's World War II defeat in 1945 following the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It was not clear who placed the advertisement, which can no longer be found on the newspaper's official website.
But the stunt infuriated Tokyo, with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida calling it "very, very ignorant".
"As the foreign minister of the only country that has suffered an atomic bomb attack, and being a politician from Hiroshima, I cannot tolerate this," Kishida was quoted as saying.
Kishida said he has instructed the Japanese consulate-general in Chongqing to lodge a formal protest if the publication was confirmed, Jiji Press news agency said.
"Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe has clearly said it would be absolutely impossible for Japan to wage war again. There is no shift in the path of Japan as a pacifist country," Kishida said.
China's ruling Communist Party uses nationalism as part of its claim to a right to rule. President Xi Jinping joined hundreds of soldiers, veterans and schoolchildren Monday in an unusually high-profile ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the start of war with Japan.
In an indirect jab at Abe he condemned those who "ignore the iron facts of history".
Tokyo has said the Chinese commemoration did "nothing to contribute to peace and cooperation in the region".
In a recent commentary the Chongqing Youth Daily lashed out at Japan's re-interpretation of its constitution last week to proclaim the right to send soldiers into battle even when the country is not under direct attack.
"Unfettering the right to collective self-defence is equivalent to handing over a sword back to the hands of murderer," it said, adding China had been "too tolerant" of Japan for more than 40 years.