By George Nishiyama
TOKYO, June 19 (Reuters) - A group of Japanese ruling party lawmakers denounced the Nanjing Massacre as a fabrication on Tuesday, contesting Chinese claims that Japanese soldiers killed hundreds of thousands after seizing the Chinese city in 1937.
The members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said there was no evidence to prove mass killings by Japanese soldiers in the captured Nationalist capital, then known as Nanking. They accused Beijing of using the alleged incident as a "political advertisement".
"Japan’s occupation of Nanjing was nothing more nor less than an ordinary battlefield," the group said in a statement at a news conference, where it presented documents it said supported its views.
Ties between the former foes, though recently on the mend, have long been dogged by what Beijing sees as Tokyo’s refusal to acknowledge atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in China between 1931 and 1945.
China says invading Japanese troops slaughtered 300,000 men, women and children in Nanjing.
Nariaki Nakayama, head of the group, said members could not let "lies and deceit be spread around the world" on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the city’s fall. He was referring to a number of coming movies about Nanjing, including one based on Iris Chang’s best-selling book, "The Rape of Nanking".
"We cannot overlook a propaganda film that portrays the Japanese as a brutal race," Nakayama said. "We cannot allow that for the sake of Japanese honour."
The group said the fact that the League of Nations in 1938 voted down a Chinese resolution condemning Japan, a resolution which claimed Japanese soldiers slaughtered 20,000 people in Nanjing, was one piece of evidence that no "massacre" took place.
It added that an Allied war crimes tribunal had found the Japanese general in charge of the Nanjing occupation not guilty of crimes against peace or against humanity, despite accusations that his forces had killed 100,000 to 200,000 Chinese.
The group said that the sudden jump in the number of alleged dead presented at the trial showed the accusation was groundless.
"This fact proves that the Nanjing Massacre was fabricated at the Tokyo trials."
The group urged China to remove a sign at their museum on the Nanjing Massacre showing the number of victims at 300,000 and also photographs the authenticity of which could not be verified.
"We believe that by China removing them, we can push ahead with true Japan-China friendship for the 21st century."
The bilateral relationship was strained under previous prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, mainly due to his annual visits to a shrine honouring Japan’s war dead. Beijing sees the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism.
Abe has moved to mend fences, visiting Beijing last October only weeks after taking office, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao followed up with a reciprocal visit to Japan in April.