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World - Asia/Pacific

Japan reassures China after reported 'anti-Chinese' comments

Acknowledges painful episode in Chinese history

April 19, 1999
Web posted at: 4:37 a.m. EDT (0837 GMT)

TOKYO (CNN) -- Japan sought to assure China on Monday that the election of nationalist politician Shintaro Ishihara as governor of Tokyo did not indicate any change in policy towards China.

"The Japanese government must maintain its friendly relations with China," chief cabinet secretary Hiromu Nonaka said at a regular briefing.

Nonaka also acknowledged a painful event in China's history, known as the Rape of Nanking, in which the Japanese military killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians.

Nonaka had been asked about Beijing's criticism of Ishihara for making remarks it called "anti-Chinese," and its warning that such statements were damaging relations between the two countries.

State news agency Xinhua quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi as saying on Sunday that Ishihara had been "beautifying" Japan's military aggression earlier this century, and held "absurd" anti-China views.

Ishihara won the race for the governorship of Tokyo with around 30 percent of the vote on April 11. He takes office on April 27. The outspoken author has offended China and other Asian countries by casting doubt on wartime atrocities committed by Japan.

On Sunday, China's leading mouthpiece, the People's Daily, ran a commentary recalling several Ishihara quotes from the past decade.

They included Ishihara's assertion that the 1937 Rape of Nanking, in which as many as 300,000 Chinese were slaughtered by Japanese troops, was a "fabrication," and that Japanese aggression rescued Asia from "colonization by white people."

At Monday's news conference, Nonaka said he had heard of Sun's reported remarks and said there was no denying that Japanese soldiers had killed civilians in Nanking.

"We can't deny that the Japanese military killed non-combatants and plundered after entering Nanking triumphantly," Nonaka said.

Nonaka said Japan would maintain its one-China policy agreed in a 1972 joint communique. Under this policy, Tokyo does not support the independence of Taiwan, which China views as a renegade province.

"There is absolutely no change in our government's policy towards China and Taiwan," said Nonaka.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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