Textbook publishers have devoted less space to Japan’s history of wartime aggression in Asian countries in their drafts of new textbooks submitted to the Education Ministry for screening, ministry sources said.

Fewer textbook publishers have included accounts of wartime sex slavery and the number of casualties in the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in new drafts of junior high school history textbooks, the sources said Saturday.

Only three of the eight publishers that made submissions mentioned the issue of wartime sexual slavery in their draft textbooks, which would be used beginning in the 2002-2003 school year.

In contrast, textbooks currently in use from all seven textbook companies that submitted drafts for screening took up the issue.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in the 1937-1945 Sino-Japanese war and during World War II. The enslaved prostitutes were euphemistically called “comfort women” in Japan.

Although the current books of four publishers describe these women as “frontline comfort women,” all of the new drafts refer to them only as “comfort women,” the sources said.

One draft says, “Young women from Korea and other parts of Asia were forcibly assembled and sent to the battlefields as comfort women for Japanese soldiers.”

A similar passage in one of the current textbooks reads, “There were many young women who were forcibly sent to the battlefields as frontline comfort women.”

On the Nanjing Massacre, six drafts discussed the episode, but only one put a concrete figure — 200,000 — on the number of casualties.

The others either described the number of casualties as “many,” said there is no accepted count or that the tally is still in debate.

Current textbooks mention specific numbers, such as 200,000 and “more than 100,000.”

The Imperial Japanese Army’s rampage of murder and rape after the fall of Nanjing in late 1937 claimed the lives of more than 140,000 Chinese, making it one of the worst atrocities committed by Japanese troops during World War II, according to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

Some Chinese historians have estimated the death toll at 300,000, while accounts in Japan range from several thousand to 200,000.

Meanwhile, one of the publishers significantly cut its section on the Battle of Okinawa in World War II from one paragraph to just three lines.

The Education Ministry screens new drafts of textbooks about once every five years. This spring, publishers submitted drafts of textbooks for use at elementary and secondary schools beginning with the 2002-2003 school year.

A ministry panel will review the drafts to ensure they fit curriculum guidelines and that they contain what the government judges to be correct vocabularies and appropriate expressions.

The panel will then issue suggestions and comments, on the basis of which the publishers make their own adjustments. The panel determines whether or not to approve the drafts on the basis of the revised texts.

Textbooks that pass the screening will be made available starting around June 2001 to schools and boards of education, which will choose which textbooks to use at their local schools.