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This is a transcript of PM broadcast at 1800 AEST on local radio.

Japanese history revision likely to anger China

PM - Monday, February  10, 2003 18:40

MARK COLVIN: Still in North Asia, the Japanese Government has again rased serious questions about the country's preparedness to come to terms with its conduct in the Second World War.

Already this year Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has infuriated China and Korea by visiting the Yasukuni shrine, which houses memorials to convicted war criminals.

Now the Government's approved controversial revisions to a school history book.

It'll delete a reference to the number of civilians killed in the infamous Nanjing Massacre.

The move is likely to infuriate China further.

in 2001, when the government approved a book that allegedly whitewashed the Nanjing massacre altogether, there was outrage from Beijing.

Tokyo correspondent Mark Simkin reports.

MARK SIMKIN: The Nanjing Massacre was one of the bloodiest crimes of the Second World War. After taking the city, the Japanese troops went on an orgy of murder, pillage and rape. Newsreel footage shows piles of bodies being shovelled into makeshift graves.

I have never been to hell, a Japanese journalist wrote in a dispatch from the site,but there is a hell96 it was in this city.

No one is sure exactly how many civilians were killed. Some historians believe 140,000 people were slaughtered. China contends it was more like 300,000.

"We like to think of history as an objective science, but its nothing of the sort. It very much depends on your perspective."

In Japan, students are taught virtually nothing about the massacre. Some text books leave it out all together, the others give it very cursory coverage.

Now, the Japanese Government has agreed that academics can revise one of the high school textbooks that does refer to the event.

The text in question, Comprehensive Japanese History will be published in April. It originally included this sentence.

INTERPRETER: "The number of victims is estimated in a range between tens of thousands and 400,000.

That will now be replaced with a much more vague sentence.

INTERPRETER: Many Chinese people were killed.

The Education Ministry has defended the revision by saying the original explanation might have obstructed students proper understanding.

Right-wing groups are happy with the decision, although some believe it doesnt go far enough. Theyd prefer it if references to the Nanjing Massacre were omitted altogether.

Hiroshi Kawahara is a member of an ultra-nationalist group, and he agreed to talk to the ABC.

HIROSHI KAWAHRA [translation]: "The fact that Japan committed acts of harm is entirely false," he says.The so-called Nanjing Massacre never happened.

I wish they would write the truth about the Second World War in history textbooks, Kawahara san adds.It was a Holy War. Japan did not do bad things; we did not invade Asia, we were simply constructing a new world order. We have nothing to apologise for.

MARK SIMKIN: There are libraries of historical material that say otherwise, not to mention millions of witness accounts, but Kawahara san says its all lies.

HIROSHI KAWAHRA [translation]: Yes, it is true that there are interviews with people who say they disgraced Japan, or were forced to do some terrible thing, concedes.But these interviews were set up and made up.

MARK SIMKIN: It all reflects a bitter and on-going debate about Japans responsibility for the past. Many people in China believe Tokyo is yet to come to terms with the crimes that were committed during the War, even though more than half a century has passed. Some in Japan counter that they should not be forced to teach what they calla masochistic view of history.

The debate comes just weeks after the Japanese Prime Minister provoked outrage by paying another visit to the Yasakuni Shrine.

The Shrine is part place of worship, part war memorial. It honours the two and a half million Japanese who have died for their country, including convicted war criminals.

MARK COLVIN: Mark Simkin reporting from Tokyo.

ABC Online

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