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JAPANESE OFFICIAL APOLOGIZES FOR CALLING MASSACRE A HOAX

SHARE JAPANESE OFFICIAL APOLOGIZES FOR CALLING MASSACRE A HOAX

Japan's new justice minister Friday retracted his statements that his country was not an aggressor in World War II and that the infamous "Rape of Nanking" was a hoax.

But several major political parties in Japan, including one in the governing coalition, said the retraction was not enough and urged Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano to resign.Nagano said at a news conference that the statements were "inappropriate" and that he would resign if asked by Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata.

He said he had "no intention of trying to justify the aims of the war" and described the Nanking massacre as "an incident for which we must apologize."

Chinese historians say Japanese soldiers killed about 300,000 people in 1937 when they entered Nanking, which had been the seat of China's Nationalist government.

The justice minister gave voice to views that are shared by some conservative politicians in Japan but rarely expressed. His comments contrasted sharply with the apologies for the war offered by Japan's previous administration, which resigned last week over a financial scandal.

Hata, who is traveling in Europe, had already labeled Nagano's remarks inappropriate and reportedly reprimanded the justice minister in a telephone conversation.

China, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam condemned the comments, made in an interview with a Japanese newspaper published Wednesday.

South Korean Foreign Minister Han Sung-joo expressed shock over the remarks and summoned Japan's ambassador Friday to demand that Japan take proper action to settle the issue.

North Korea said the comments were an effort to bring "the specter of Japanese militarism back to life."

At his news conference, Nagano also retracted earlier remarks in which he said it would be "cruel" to single out Japan for forcing thousands of Asian women to be sex slaves for the Japanese army.