Ja­pan re­buffs out­cry over new his­tory text­books


Ja­pan on Tues­day re­buffed neigh­bor­ing coun­tries’ protests about newly ap­proved text­books af­ter com­plaints about ref­er­ences to dis­puted ter­ri­tory and their bit­ter shared his­tory.

The ed­u­ca­tion min­istry an­nounced on Mon­day that all 18 new so­cial stud­ies text­books for use in ju­nior high schools as­sert Ja­panese own­er­ship of two sep­a­rate is­land groups at the cen­ter of dis­putes with China and South Korea.

New school books also fail to use the word “massacre” when re­fer­ring to Ja­pan’s mass slaugh­ter of Chi­nese civil­ians in Nan­jing in 1937, pre­fer­ring the term “in­ci­dent.”

The text­book dis­pute sur­faces reg­u­larly in the three-way row over events in the first half of the 20th cen­tury, when Ja­pan in­vaded and oc­cu­pied large tracts of Asia.

But it has come at a par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive time as the re­gion pre­pares to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of World War II, and with a ris­ing tide of na­tion­al­ism in China, Ja­pan and South Korea.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter Mon­day’s an­nounce­ment, the South Korean for­eign min­istry sum­moned Ja­panese Am­bas­sador Koro Bessho to protest over the text­books.

“The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment car­ried out an­other provo­ca­tion by ap­prov­ing school text­books that strengthen un­fair claims over our ter­ri­tory,” the min­istry said in a state­ment.

Tokyo and Seoul are at odds over the sovereignty of a pair of sparsely in­hab­ited rocks in wa­ters be­tween them, ad­min­is­tered by Seoul as Dokdo but claimed as Takeshima in Ja­pan.

“This clearly shows that the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment seeks to in­cul­cate the dis­torted views on his­tory and ter­ri­tory into the minds of the young gen­er­a­tion and tries to re­peat the wrongs it com­mit­ted in the past,” it said.

In Tokyo Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga re­jected those claims.

“Our coun­try’s text­book screen­ing is car­ried out im­par­tially and neu­trally, based on pro­fes­sional and aca­demic de­lib­er­a­tions,” Suga told a news con­fer­ence.

“Since our coun­try’s stance on Takeshima and his­tory recog­ni­tion have been con­sis­tent, we re­sponded to (South Korea) by say­ing we can­not ac­cept their protest.”

A Ja­panese ed­u­ca­tion min­istry of­fi­cial con­firmed that one of the new his­tory text­books did not re­fer to the mass killing in Nan­jing, while “many oth­ers have de­scribed it as an in­ci­dent, not a massacre.”

China says 300,000 civil­ians and sol­diers died in a spree of killing, rape and de­struc­tion in the six weeks af­ter the Ja­panese mil­i­tary en­tered the then-cap­i­tal on Dec. 13, 1937.

While some for­eign aca­demics put the num­ber of deaths lower, no main­stream re­spected his­to­ri­ans dis­pute there was a massacre.

In Bei­jing, for­eign min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said China was “gravely con­cerned about what is hap­pen­ing in Ja­pan.”

“The Nan­jing massacre is an atroc­ity com­mit­ted by Ja­panese mil­i­tarism dur­ing its war of ag­gres­sion against China, which is based on ir­refutable ev­i­dence and con­clu­sions were drawn long ago on this,” she said.

“Ja­pan’s treat­ment and per­cep­tion of rel­e­vant is­sues ac­tu­ally show whether Ja­pan can hold an hon­est, re­spon­si­ble and cor­rect per­cep­tion of his­tory. His­tory is his­tory, it can­not and should not be al­lowed to be changed will­fully.”

Separately on Tues­day, Ja­pan is­sued its an­nual “blue book” on for­eign pol­icy, say­ing: “The start­ing point of Ja­pan’s co­her­ent path as a peace­ful na­tion is our pledge not to fight a war again and keep peace, based on our deep re­morse over the past war.”

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