China slams Japan defence minister for ducking Nanjing massacre questions

Japan's new Defence Minister Tomomi Inada delivers a speech at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on Aug 4, 2016.
Japan's new Defence Minister Tomomi Inada delivers a speech at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on Aug 4, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday (Aug 5) accused Japan's new defence minister of recklessly misrepresenting history after she declined to say whether Japanese troops massacred civilians in China during World War II.

Tomomi Inada, a 57-year old lawmaker known for her revisionist views of Japan's wartime actions, took up her post on Thursday and repeatedly sidestepped questions at a briefing on whether she condemned atrocities committed by Japan.

China consistently reminds its people of the 1937 massacre in which it says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in its then capital.

A postwar Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, but some conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny a massacre took place at all.

China's defence ministry, in a statement on its microblog, expressed "indignation" over Inada's comments, and said there was ironclad evidence of the Nanjing massacre.

"Her open denial of the... facts is simply an attempt to cover up Japan's history of aggression and challenge the international order by reviving militarism," the ministry said.

"We must point out that facing up to history is the basis for resolving historical problems," it said. "If history is denied, China-Japan relations have no future."

Inada told reporters on Thursday that whether Japan's wartime actions should be described as an invasion "depends on one's point of view", and said she thought it was not "appropriate" for her to comment on the matter.

Inada has called for a revamp of Japan's war-renouncing constitution to ease constraints on its military operating overseas. She has been a regular visitor to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine for war dead that neighbours, including China and South Korea, see as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

Inada has also questioned whether Japan forced women from Korea and other countries into military brothels.

Relations between the neighbours, haunted by the legacy of WWII and conflicting claims over a group of East China Sea islets, have been strained in recent years as China's military modernisation has rattled Tokyo.