BEIJING • China yesterday marked the 80th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre with a call to work with Japan for peace, as President Xi Jinping kept a low profile and left the main public remarks to another senior official.
Beijing and Tokyo have long sparred over their painful history.
China consistently reminds its people of the 1937 massacre in which it says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in what was then its capital. A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, but some conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny there was a massacre.
Beijing-Tokyo ties have been plagued by a long-running territorial row over a cluster of East China Sea islets and suspicion in China about efforts by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to amend the country's pacifist Constitution.
However, the two countries have sought to get relations back on track, and Mr Abe and Mr Xi met last month on the sidelines of a regional summit in Vietnam.
Speaking at a memorial in Nanjing, Mr Yu Zhengsheng, who heads a high-profile but largely ceremonial advisory body to China's Parliament, said China and Japan were neighbours with deep historic ties.
China would deepen relations with all its neighbours, including Japan, Mr Yu said.
A sombre Mr Xi, wearing a white flower in his lapel to symbolise mourning, stood in the audience but did not speak.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga spoke of the importance of looking to the future.
"The leaders of Japan and China have agreed in past meetings to further improve relations and it is important, while cherishing this trend, to together show a future-oriented stance," Mr Suga told a regular news conference.