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Japan will not bow to neighbors on textbook

A textbook protestor in Seoul
A former South Korean comfort woman protests over the textbook in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul  

In this story:

Angry Asian neighbors

Not Tokyo's views

Not Holocaust scale

Japan invasion an 'advance'




TOKYO, Japan -- Japan has said it would not bow to foreign pressure and bar schools from using a controversial new textbook.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it would not intervene with the government's decision to go ahead with the textbook, despite complaints from China and South Korea.

Both countries say the textbook glosses over the country's wartime aggression.

Japan's Education Ministry endorsed the draft of the high school history textbook on Tuesday following a panel screening, which recommended that about 137 sections be revised due to their controversial content.

"The screening procedures were completed, and therefore there will be no change (to the content)," Foreign Minister Yohei Kono told the Lower House of parliament's foreign affairs committee.

Japanese history textbooks have a tradition of sparking fierce debate at home and in Asian countries invaded by Japan in the first half of the 20th century.

Angry Asian neighbors

Both China and South Korea have lambasted the Japanese government's decision to approve the textbook.

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan summoned the Japanese ambassador to Beijing on Wednesday to lodge a protest.

"The approval of the textbook hurt the feelings of many people in China and hampers the development of normal Sino-Japanese relations," a Japanese official quoted Tang as telling the Japanese diplomat.

The move has also sparked outrage in South Korea, with a foreign ministry official saying on Tuesday the country may recall its ambassador to Tokyo in protest.

Seoul says the textbook covers up Japan's 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula -- including the fact that Koreans were forced to speak Japanese and pledge loyalty to its emperor.

Not Tokyo's views

But Japan's top government spokesman responded by saying the textbooks did not reflect Tokyo's official views.

"Historical perspectives or outlooks represented in textbooks should not be identified as those of the Japanese government," Yasuo Fukuda said in a statement on Tuesday.

Stressing that the Education Ministry's screening was conducted "fairly," Kono said Japan would seek understanding from China and South Korea of its position.

Not Holocaust scale

The initial text had said Japan's 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula was in line with international law. It had also labeled the Nanjing Massacre as being "nothing on the scale of the Holocaust."

Following the panel's recommendation, the publishers revised the text, making clear the annexation of Korea was carried out by force to quash opposition by the Korean people.

It also took out the reference playing down the scale of the Nanjing Massacre, in which China says as many as 300,000 civilians died when Japanese troops overran the eastern city in December 1937.

But the screening panel did leave other controversial sections including parts that describe Japanese troops as braving "death with honor."

The textbook will go into use from April 2002.

Japan invasion an 'advance'

Japan's relations with Asian countries have often been damaged by textbook depictions of Tokyo's wartime role.

In 1982, a row was touched off in Asia when textbooks described Japan's World War Two invasion of the region as an "advance."

In 1997, Japan's Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling that the government had illegally ordered historian Saburo Ienaga to delete an account of the activities of the Japanese Imperial Army's infamous Unit 731.

The unit conducted biological warfare and experimented on live prisoners in northern China during the war.

Ienaga's challenges over three decades have forced the Education Ministry to accept his views on atrocities such as the Nanjing Massacre and Japanese wartime aggression.

Current textbooks give fuller accounts of Japanese actions in the war, but have been slammed by the right for going too far.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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