河村氏南京発言 日中の歴史認識共有は難しい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 8, 2012)
Despite historical differences, Japan, China must boost ties
河村氏南京発言 日中の歴史認識共有は難しい(3月7日付・読売社説)

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura's remarks on the Nanjing Incident have cast a shadow over Japan-China relations.

During a courtesy call last month by a Chinese Communist Party leader from Nanjing, a sister city of Nagoya, Kawamura said, "I doubt whether what you call the Nanjing Massacre took place [in the way it has been described]."

Nanjing immediately suspended exchange programs with Nagoya in protest. The Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized the mayor's comment by saying, "Irresponsible remarks that distort historical facts deeply hurt the feelings of the Chinese people."

Cultural exchange events scheduled to begin in Nanjing on Friday under the sponsorship of the Japanese government have been postponed. The decision is believed to have been made out of consideration for the safety of performers. However, it was regrettable.

Various kinds of events are scheduled this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations. The two countries should deal with the current situation in a coolheaded manner to prevent the bilateral relationship from being strained further and impacting adversely on diplomatic and economic ties.


Claims vary over death toll

The Nanjing Incident occurred in December 1937 when the Imperial Japanese Army occupied Nanjing, which was China's capital at the time. Prisoners of war were executed and civilians were raped by Japanese soldiers. But there are differing views on how many Chinese died.

In 2006, Japan and China launched a joint study of historical issues from the academic standpoint, rather than the political. But discussions failed to accomplish much because of Chinese political constraints.

A report released by the joint research committee two years ago presented the views of academicians from both countries.

The Japanese side said, "Various figures, for example 20,000 and 40,000, have been presented, with a maximum number of victims put at 200,000." However, the Chinese side repeated Beijing's official view that 300,000 people were killed in Nanjing.

In clarifying his remarks, Kawamura said he had meant that no organized massacre occurred that claimed the lives of 300,000 people. We can sympathize with his remarks if he really meant that. But there is no denying he was indiscreet.


Views unlikely to change

Kawamura said he wanted to visit Nanjing to discuss the Nanjing Incident. He insisted that resolving a thorny historical issue through frank discussions between the two countries would contribute to improving bilateral friendship.

But is such a discussion possible in China today? Even if talks are held in China, where freedom of speech is not guaranteed, it is hard to imagine the Chinese supporting his view and rejecting the government's official claim that 300,000 people died.

It will be extremely difficult for the two countries to agree on historical matters. After taking this into consideration, it is necessary to work toward building a constructive bilateral relationship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 7, 2012)
(2012年3月7日01時27分 読売新聞)

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