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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 December 2006, 03:59 GMT
Japan-China talks on shared past
By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Chinese protest on anniversary of Nanjing Massacre, 13 Dec 2006
China has often protested against Japan's wartime record
Japanese and Chinese experts are beginning an ambitious project to try to resolve arguments over the two countries' shared past.

Ten government-appointed academics from each country are holding their first two-day meeting in Beijing.

Ties between the two nations have often been strained by persistent disputes over subjects such as Japan's wartime treatment of China.

The project is expected to take more than a year to complete.

This is an ambitious task to try to reconcile different interpretations of the two countries' shared history that have caused deep divisions in the past.

'Atrocities downplayed'

For instance, China has accused the Japanese of downplaying atrocities carried out during the invasion and occupation of parts of the Chinese mainland in the 1930s and '40s.

It has objected to government-approved textbooks here that leave out or soften accounts of Japanese brutality in World War II.

Finding a common position that satisfies both sides on issues like that will not be easy.

Groups of historians from both countries have collaborated to produce textbooks before but these are not widely used, at least in Japan.

This initiative is being promoted by the two countries' foreign ministers.

Some of the academics will study ancient and medieval history; the others the modern period, including World War II and events right up to the present day.

They hope to complete the task in 2008.

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