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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Japan calls for calm in book row
South Korean activists hold anti-Japanese placards during a protest against the new Japanese textbooks, in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, 06 April 2005.
One of the books has reignited a row with Seoul over disputed isles
Japan has called for calm after a newly approved set of school books sparked protests in China and South Korea.

Tokyo said private companies, not the government, were responsible for the texts, and that Seoul's reaction to one of the books was "extreme".

China and South Korea think the new history text books glorify Japan's war-time past and distort facts.

Japan's ambassadors to China and South Korea were both summoned to hear of their hosts' displeasure.

A Chinese retail group also urged shops to stop selling Japanese goods in response to the new books.

"We call on all patriotic Chinese consumers who have a conscience to support our action. For the sake of our pride and our children, let's take action," it said.

But Japanese Cabinet spokesman Seiken Sugiura told a press conference in Tokyo that the dispute should be dealt with calmly.

"The basic (stance) is to develop future-oriented, friendly relations," he said of Tokyo's ties with Seoul.

He said South Korea's reaction to one of the books, a civic studies text which claims Japan owns a set of disputed islands, was out of proportion given other Japanese text books had made the same claim.

He said a current row over the islands, known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, had inflamed the situation, and Seoul was "acting in an extreme manner".

Earlier, Japan's ambassador to Beijing defended the new text books in the face of criticism from China.

Koreshige Anami said the textbooks were produced by private companies and not the government.

"In Japan we ensure freedom of speech and publication," he told the Chinese foreign ministry, according to an embassy spokesman.

Mr Anami also demanded adequate protection of Japanese companies in China following protests sparked by Tokyo's bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.

"He observed that patriotic education in China may have caused some anti-Japanese feelings among young Chinese people. Anami asked the Chinese government to pay full attention to this aspect," the spokesman said.

Historical difference

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

China and South Korea say the books underplay Japan's military occupations of Asian countries in the first half of the 20th Century.

One book refers to the Japanese slaughter of some 300,000 civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937 as an "incident", rather than the "massacre" it is known as elsewhere.

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.




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