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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Japan history texts anger E Asia
South Korean activists hold anti-Japan placards during a protest against the new Japanese textbooks, near the Japanese embassy in downtown Seoul, 05 April 2005
The new books have sparked public protests in Seoul
Japan has approved a set of new school history text books whose version of past events has already sparked complaints from South Korea and China.

One of the eight texts is an updated version of a book which triggered diplomatic protests in 2001.

Seoul said the new books sought to glorify Japan's war-time past, a continuing source of regional tension.

The move follows a row between Japan and South Korea over disputed islands, and anti-Japanese protests in China.

The South Korean Embassy in Japan said in a statement: "The Republic of Korea expresses regret over the fact that some of the 2006 Japanese middle school text books... still contain content that justifies and glorifies wrongs committed in the past".

In Beijing, China called in the Japanese ambassador and said the new texts would be "vehemently condemned by people from all Asian countries being victimized by Japan".

The Japanese government, which says it can only press textbooks to be amended if they contain factual errors, said it was up to individual school districts to decide which books they use.

Schools have until August to make the choice. The books will be in junior high schools from April 2006.

The most controversial of the new books was written by a group of nationalist historians called the Society for History Textbook Reform, and its first version, published in 2001, caused Seoul to recall its ambassador for nine days in protest.

The Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday singled out this book for criticism.

"A textbook by Fushosha Publishing Co has distorted history and hurt the feelings of people in Asia, including China," Wang Yi was quoted by Japanese officials as saying in a meeting with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi.

The Japanese government had demanded 124 changes to the book following the complaints in 2001. These have been made, but the new text still has controversial elements.

It refers to the Japanese slaughter of some 300,000 civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing as an "incident", rather than the "massacre" it is known as elsewhere.

This book is currently in use in fewer than 0.1% of Japan's schools, but this time the authors are hoping for a better response.

'Lack of detail'

The seven other texts approved on Tuesday are also accused of dispensing with the kind of detail Japan's neighbours say is necessary for a balanced account.

Only one of the books gives figures for the number of civilians killed in the Nanjing Massacre, while the others say "many people" died.

A civic studies text book, approved on Tuesday, is also set to stoke a row between Japan and South Korea over disputed islands.

The book says that "South Korea is illegally occupying" the islands, known as Dokdo in South Korea, and Takeshima in Japan.

Tensions between Japan and China over territory and history are also on the rise.

Japanese businesses in two Chinese cities were targeted on Monday by mobs protesting against Tokyo's attempts to gain a permanent UN Security Council seat.

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