TOKYO — Tokyo's outspoken conservative governor Shintaro Ishihara on Friday said he agreed with the mayor of Nagoya's statement that the 1937 'rape' of Nanjing by Japanese troops never happened.
Diplomatic sparks flew earlier this week when Takashi Kawamura said he believes only a "conventional fight" took place in Nagoya's sister city of Nanjing, instead of the well-documented massacre of Chinese civilians.
China says 300,000 people were killed in an orgy of murder, rape and destruction when the eastern city -- then the capital -- fell to the Japanese imperial army, and the incident has haunted Sino-Japanese ties ever since.
Beijing lodged a formal complaint over the denial and Nanjing officials said they were freezing twin city activities in protest.
In a move that could further inflame emotions, Ishihara on Friday backed the controversial claims.
"What mayor Kawamura says is correct. I would like to defend him," Ishihara told journalists.
Ishihara believes that it would have been physically impossible for the former Japanese army to kill so many people in such a short period of time, Jiji press reported him as saying.
On Monday, Kawamura told Liu Zhiwei, a high-level Chinese official visiting from Nanjing, that mass murders and rapes had not happened, a belief he says is based on the experiences of his father who was in Nanjing in 1945 at the end of the Japanese occupation of China.
Tokyo on Wednesday said the official government position on the sacking of the city had not changed.
Spokesman Osamu Fujimura said: "We cannot deny that the killing of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred" following the Japanese imperial army's advance into Nanjing.
Relations between Japan and China occasionally flare over differing interpretations of history, with emotions running high over the 1937-1945 occupation by Japanese troops of vast swathes of China.
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