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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Japan textbook angers Chinese, Korean press
A South Korean protester burns images of Japanese textbooks and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul
The approval of the textbooks has caused a diplomatic storm

The Japanese government's approval of a set of controversial history textbooks has reignited bitter disputes over the region's past in the South Korean and Chinese press.

In Japan itself, newspapers differ over the best way to handle the controversy, which is over new history text books which China and South Korea say glorify Japan's war-time past.

Chinese dailies pull no punches in slating the history textbooks as well as the government that approved them.

Renmin Ribao attacks the books for "whitewashing aggression, distorting historical facts and evading responsibility for crimes".

It says they are "a provocation to the justice and conscience of humanity, do serious harm to people's feelings in all the victimized countries, and also poison the thinking of young Japanese".

The China Daily agrees it is a "political provocation", worrying the books downplay Japanese occupation of Asian countries in the first half of the 20th century.


"Simply put, it is unfit as a teaching tool," it says, adding that "without a consensus on the history issue and other disputes, the Asian peoples cannot place their trust in Japan's desire to play a bigger role in world affairs".

It is rash for Japan to try to play a leading role in international society when it feels no regret over its recent history

South Korea's Dong A-Ilbo

Shanghai's daily Wenhui Bao warns that the dispute may jeopardize Japan's chances of a much-coveted seat on the UN Security Council.

"How can a country which not only cannot correctly handle history, but falsifies history again and again, have the qualifications to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a responsible member of the international community?"

South Korea's Dong A-Ilbo agrees that it is "rash for Japan to try to play a leading role in international society when it feels no regret over its recent history."

Another South Korean paper, the centre-left daily Hankyore, believes that the changes to the texts demanded by the Japanese government before it gave its approval were insufficient.

"The results of the textbook approval process are as disappointing as can be, since they [the textbooks] are of great interest as a barometer of the future ties between Korea and Japan," it comments.

However, Joongang Ilbo recognises that the books - yet to be chosen by junior high schools in Japan from a range of possible texts - could still end up on the publisher's shelf.

"We have no choice but to join conscientious people in Japan and the world in campaigning against the use of these distorted history textbooks in Japanese schools."


The Japanese press is split over how to handle the furore. An editorial in The Daily Yomiuri rejects criticism from its Asian neighbours as an affront to Japan's independence.

"The ministry's textbook screening is a system established as a form of sovereignty to be exercised by this nation. No foreign country should be allowed to exert pressure on the Japanese system."

Tokyo Shimbun, however, urges restraint, arguing that "an emotional exchange of words and action will bear no fruit".

Mainichi Shimbun sees government involvement in the production of the textbooks as a major problem. "There will probably be people who are still distrustful of it."

And Sankei Shimbun presses for more balance in the writing of textbooks in the future.

"It is not desirable to include descriptions that may promote a particular political point of view. We would like ask textbook writers to describe issues fairly and squarely."

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