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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 16:32 GMT
Furore over Japan WWII remarks continues
Japanese troops with bodies
Asian countries bore the brunt of Japan's expansionism
The political storm over a Japanese politician's controversial praise for his country's role in World War II continued to rage on Tuesday.

I don't know what Norota meant, but [our] policy has not changed

Foreign Minister Yohei Kono
Hosei Norota, a senior official in the ruling party, blamed the US for Japan's entry into World War II and credited Japanese militarism with liberating south-east Asia from European colonialism.

As angry responses poured in from China and the Korea peninsula, Japan's foreign minister sought to distance the government from the row, saying the comments did not reflect official policy.

Opposition parties in Japan have lashed out at the government over the issue and are boycotting budget hearings in parliament.

'Ridiculous' comments

China described the comments as "ridiculous" while North Korea accused Japan of being "political dwarfs".

Japanese soldier executing Chinese person
China accuses Japan of trying to justify its aggression
"Such a ridiculous allegation reflects the arrogance and ignorance of some people in Japan on historical questions," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said on Tuesday.

"The war of aggression launched by Japanese militarists brought about tremendous disaster to victims in [Asia]... Their crime was so serious that it brooks no denying."

"The point at issue is why Japan is letting loose a string of rubbish in a bid to beautify and justify its history of past aggression," the North Korean Central News Agency said, adding that war memories were still fresh in Korea, which Japan ruled from 1910 to 1945.

Latest scandal

Four Japanese opposition parties said they would jointly submit a motion to parliament demanding that Norota, a former defence minister, step down as budget panel chairman over his comments.

Hosei Norota
Norota said Japan "ventured south" because it was faced with oil embargoes
The scandal is the latest to hit the besieged Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, whose ratings in polls have slipped down to single digits.

Contentious remarks by Japanese leaders over the country's military past have hindered relations with neighbouring countries.

New reports continue to emerge alleging brutality by Japan during its occupation of Asian countries during the war.

Last month, a Chinese doctor told a Tokyo court how Japan's military ''bombed'' a Chinese city with fleas carrying bubonic plague, triggering a serious outbreak of the disease.

The doctor was giving evidence at a case in which 180 Chinese are demanding compensation and an apology from Japan for the deaths of relatives.

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See also:

19 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Korea furious over Japan WWII remarks
02 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Forced labour victims home after 50 years
25 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Japan bombed China with plague-fleas'
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Nanjing survivor sues Japanese authors
17 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Row over Japan war shrine
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