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Bid to list Nanking, sex slavery at U.N. spurs protest China 'exploiting history,' Suga says

China seeks UNESCO listing for Nanking Massacre, sex slave archives; Japan protests

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The government has filed a protest against China’s applications to have what it says are historical documents on the 1937 Nanking Massacre and Japan’s wartime “comfort women” brothel system registered in the U.N. archive program, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.

During his daily news conference, Suga lashed out at Beijing for “politically exploiting” sensitive historical issues “when Japan and China need to make efforts to improve the bilateral relationship.”

Beijing “is trying to unnecessarily play up (the two issues). It’s extremely regrettable,” Suga said. “We filed a protest and requested (Beijing) to withdraw the application.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday that Beijing filed applications to register the documents for UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.

South Korea, which also suffered under Japan’s past aggression, is considering similar steps over the comfort women who were forced to serve in Japanese-run military brothels.

In April, China made public a huge collection of previously confidential wartime documents written by Japanese military officers, including some accounts related to the women pressed into sexual servitude.

“What China has submitted for application this time are authentic, rare and precious documents with historical significance, which meet the standard of application,” Hua was quoted as saying on the ministry’s website.

“By applying for the inclusion of precious historical documents related to the Nanking Massacre and Japan’s forced recruitment of the comfort women in the register, China is to memorize the history, treasure the peace, uphold the dignity of mankind and prevent behaviors against humanity, human rights and human beings from happening again,” Hua said.

Suga also argued that it is inappropriate to apply for the UNESCO status when historians are sharply divided over estimated numbers of noncombatant victims in the Nanking Massacre that started in late 1937. China often claims about 300,000 Chinese were slaughtered by Imperial Japanese Army soldiers, while mainstream Japanese historians’ estimates of the victims vary from 40,000 to 200,000.

China and South Korea have been working closely to pressure Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to recognize Japan’s historical responsibility for World War II. The two countries increased their efforts following Abe’s controversial visit last December to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese leaders convicted of war crimes alongside millions of war dead.

The leaders of China and South Korea have refused to hold talks with Abe since he took office in December 2012, citing his nationalistic interpretation of history. Seoul and Beijing both insist that Japan has never fully accepted responsibility for the comfort women system or atrocities such as the Nanking Massacre.

In late May, China unveiled a stone monument on the outskirts of the ancient city of Xian to honor Koreans who fought to free their peninsula from Japanese colonial rule, which lasted from 1910 to 1945. The monument was built at the request of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who proposed the idea during a state visit to China about a year ago.

South Korea said Tuesday it is considering making a similar application to UNESCO on the historical documents.

“As far as I know, there is an opinion within the government to seek the listing and the issue is being considered,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said at a press briefing in Seoul. He said the South Korean government “is aware of the Chinese move.”

Information from Kyodo added

  • phu

    I just realized what this reminds me of: MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). It’s as though China, Japan, and South Korea have simultaneously found political weapons powerful enough to seriously harm each other, and rather than handling them with care and discussion, they’ve decided to unleash them continuously until their ‘enemies’ capitulate.

    This might work in conventional conflict (and to a lesser but more final extent in a nuclear exchange), but when your words cause less actual harm than nationalistic anger, this ill-advised war of words has only the potential to make itself continuously worse and potentially pull in more and more nations.

    I think we’re past the point of hoping these three see reason and work out their issues respectfully. Let’s just hope it doesn’t escalate into something physically or economically devastating, for the sake of their own citizens as well as the rest of the world.

    • kyushuphil

      They could “see reason and work out their issue respectfully.”

      They could, indeed, phu — if they had educators in any of the three countries skilled at and eager for some good cross-cultural exchanges.

      Students in all three countries could, in their home classrooms, write essays locating themselves in their own cultures — and mentioning other individuals in the home class, as if, in life, we all live as individuals, seeing and confronting our own society, and the world.

      The classes could swap entire rounds of essays with others in the other two countries. All in English. All gestating over a bit of time. But then new rounds of essays may ensue, with the youth responding — as individuals — to the essays received from the other culture.

      This could happen. I’ve encouraged the American ambassador to Japan to help make it happen. I’ve done the same with the Swedish ambassador here — who previously had been ambassador to Korea.

      It could happen. Or, do educators in all three countries prefer to cram their students with depersonalized info for the stupid standardized tests in all three countries, and go on deferring to the stupid politicians in all three countries also?

      • phu

        I’d say it’s not the educators who are at fault. In the US, at least, the educators (as in classroom teachers) I’ve known would love to teach in a more effective real-world-knowledge manner; however, we see less and less of this as politics puts those standardized tests on ever-higher pedestals. Educators themselves just don’t have the clout to make that choice, and those that attempt to are fired and demonized.

        Which is not to say I disagree with you that this would be absolutely excellent. I think it would, and it’d be an ideal way to start kids out right with a sense of having a place in the world rather than the world revolving around them. At this point, though, we need sanity faster than the minimum two decades it’d take to put those kids in power even if education righted itself today.

        So my long-winded reply is that I think you have a great idea… I just hope something like that actually does happen some day, and in the meantime, we’re probably going to want to try for something more immediate.

      • Roppi

        `kyushuphil – the winners write history..and I think you’re dreaming if you think that China, Japan or the Koreans will ever write a fair account of history during that unfortunate time..

        Remember there were no winners – Korea spilt into two (surely we can’T blame the Japanese for that?) China ‘elected’ themselves the most corrupt and malevolent state in modern historical times..and Japan was reduced to ashes..

        But again here’s the rub – which of those countries rose from the ashes of WW2 first??
        As for China – don’t you get it – they don’t want the problem to go away – it’s leverage – it’s something they continue to hold onto after 70 years and they’re milk it for all it’s worth. They don’t want to win the international debate over who is right or wrong or culpable -it’s all manufactured for domestic audiences. Do you think when the Chinese ‘citizens’ burn down Japanese businesses in China that this is kind spontaneous outcry from the people??

      • kyushuphil

        All the more reason, no, for educators to do a better job?

        Just as everything you say is true, the worse fact is that something in the human nature of dogmatists makes it also inevitable.

        Yet in the face of this, can’t educators rouse themselves to re-center the human — in all its specificity, contrariness, messiness, even??

      • Roppi

        I only wish that were true – but educators as well you know are all controlled by the state – democratic- communist – makes no difference. The essential difference is their capacity to provide choices for their people – free people..and CCP can’t say that – now can they??

      • kyushuphil

        I’m afraid you’ve nailed it.

        Yes, teachers work for the state. Any state. Every state.

        In America there are some differences, insofar as some teachers like to view the world through this interest group, with its set of language, or that interest group, and its language. They like to set each other up as straw figures, and quarrel — though talking mostly top themselves.

        Here in Japan the one standard seems to be the great relish to produce this new form of quasi-humanity all totally unacquainted with even the idea of anyone ever asking any questions of anything — let alone the arts and traditions of doing that. (Even Japan used to have these arts and traditions, of questioning things, prior to this mindless consumerism that’s now taken over, all teachers, too, totally Invasion of the Body Snatchers fallen asleep.)

  • Roppi

    How about UNESCO formally register the historically factual genocide by the CCP during their ridiculous, vile – Cultural Revolution – or more recently the massacre in Tiananmen square….??

    • Ichiro Yamamoto

      In an ideal world all of the atrocities committed by both the CCP and the crimes committed by the Japanese wartime government should be listed. However deplorable the CCP is, it is also not an excuse to not list the Japanese war crimes committed in World War II on UNESCO. Of course conversely, just because Japan committed war crimes against China does not justify CCP’s disastrous policy during the Cultural Revolution era or the censorship of Tienanmen square massacre. Both CCP and Japan needs to stop pointing fingers at each other and fix their own domestic issues, and I’m pretty sure there are lots of things to work on.

      • Roppi

        An ideal world?? So where do you suggest we draw the line in sand??
        Before the birth of Christ – or after?

        How about the Romans and how they enslaved or conquered half the known world..??
        How about during many Chinese dynasties (Genghis Khan) where they would literally wipe out entire cultures…you want to start there?

        Or should we fast forward to the time when Japan – for all it’s mistakes was actually a superior technological country in the late 19th century when Korea (N &S) were still feudal and China was prostituting itself to western powers.. that’s rub here – face!

        ..the real question is – does Japan actually point out these ‘things’ to China?

        I would argue no – it’s China that’s continuing raising and organising these issues – do you honestly think the CCP gives a toss about it’s people?
        They exit for one purpose only – to hold power in world’s largest police state..

      • Ichiro Yamamoto

        > An ideal world?? So where do you suggest we draw the line in sand??Before the birth of Christ – or after?

        That is not for me or you to decide, UN decides that.

        Look this isn’t about China or Japan. I don’t know why you can’t see the bigger picture here. This is much more important than China and Japan. It’s about recording human history, and history is not a battle of who is right/wrong. We don’t learn history to punish nations of their past behaviors, we learn history to not repeat them in the future, how to make brighter future for the next generation. This is why learning about Nanking massacre is important, so is the learning about the Holocaust, so is learning about Tibet, Tienanmen square, the Mai Lai massacre by the US forces in Vietnam, the British massacre of Indians in the 19th century, etc. History is full of lessons we can learn from, the bad ones such as slavery, and the good ones, like how we were able to send man into the moon. We need to learn to appreciate that, and how to properly learn from history, and change our world for the better.

      • Roppi

        Agree – you site excellent examples – however, of all them – it’s only the Chinese that continue to provide ‘moral guidance/outrage’ to the rest of the world. Don’t you find it strange that this Chinese aggression has coincided with their economic/military progress – (note here I am NOT referring to their social progress..)

        So where do I find ongoing expressions of hate – say re the Mai Lai massacre? Where do I find hatred thrown at the Korean massacres during the same war? Where do I find the hatred by the Indians towards the British? Where do I find in Australia hatred towards the Japanese and what they perpetrated during WW2??

        Yes – of course it’s essential for humanity to evolve onwards – place the past in the past…and this is what you think The CCP are doing now…moving on??
        Ask a Tibetans about how they’ve moved on under the crushing rule of the Han!
        Your point about the Nanking Massacre is correct – but who’s version of history are we seeing – the Chinese for their own sustainable propaganda machine – the same machinery that preaches to the world to stay the hell away from Tibet since it’s been Chinese since the dawn of man and how the Dali Lama is terrorist??

        Your attempt to wrap up various historical events to provide an ‘understanding’ of why China pursues this course is unfortunately flawed and naive…

  • SuchindranathAiyer

    Annexation and the religious and cultural genocide of Tibet must come first in UNESCO’s heritage as it is more closely linked to Education-Social and Cultural History.