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Japanese Minister Resigns After Furor Over Remarks : Cabinet: Shigeto Nagano had apologized for denying Rape of Nanking, guilt of World War II aggression.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata accepted the resignation of Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano on Saturday, three days after Nagano called the 1937 Rape of Nanking a fabrication and denied that Japan was guilty of aggression in World War II.

It was the third time since 1986 that a Japanese Cabinet minister has resigned or was fired for making revisionist statements about World War II.

The move came a day after Nagano apologized and withdrew his statements published Wednesday. Hata, winding up a European trip in Brussels, rebuked Nagano on Friday but said he would like to retain him. Hata said then that the Japanese government was informing China and South Korea, both of which protested officially, of Nagano’s “true intentions” and hoped they would understand.

On Saturday, however, Hata said Japan could not afford to allow repercussions in neighboring countries to spread. Demands for Nagano’s ouster had also increased at home.

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Nagano, 71, a former chief of staff of Japan’s postwar army and a member of Hata’s Renewal Party, took the initiative in offering his resignation. Hata accepted it Saturday night after returning to Tokyo.

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart for the shock and rage my inappropriate remarks gave to our neighboring countries, and the disturbance and anxiety they caused to our own people,” Nagano said Saturday night.

Nagano’s initial claim that Japanese troops did not kill tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians and indiscriminately rape women after seizing Nanking (now known as Nanjing) in 1937 and his insistence that Japan intended to “liberate colonies” in its 1931-1945 Pacific war inflicted a serious wound on a new foreign policy Japan adopted last August.

Hata, now the head of a shaky minority coalition government installed only nine days ago, named Hiroshi Nakai, 51, deputy secretary general of the middle-of-the-road Democratic Socialist Party, to replace Nagano.

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