South Korea’s ambassador to Japan returned to Seoul on Tuesday in a move to protest Japan’s approval last week of a history textbook that many Asian nations say brushes over descriptions of Japan’s wartime atrocities.
Ambassador Choi Sang Yong caught an afternoon flight for what Seoul officials described Monday as “talks on how to respond to the coming release of the controversial history textbook.”
Government officials in Tokyo tried to play down the move Tuesday, saying they were confident Choi would return to Japan after fully briefing the South Korean side on events leading up to the approval of the text and the Japanese government’s position on the issue.
Foreign Minister Yohei Kono told a news conference after the morning’s Cabinet meeting that the government position on the matter was outlined in a statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda on April 3, the day the controversial textbook was approved, which says the screening process was carried out in an appropriate manner.
“At this point, we are not thinking of (taking) any new measures,” Kono said, indicating the government will not press for further revisions to the textbook.
The minister stressed that he believes Choi’s trip to Seoul is temporary and that he is returning to his home country merely to explain the situation. “The government’s position regarding history remains based on the statement issued by (then) Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama marking 50 years since the end of World War II,” he added.
In the 1995 statement, the prime minister expressed “deep remorse” and his “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s colonial rule and wartime aggression, particularly in Asia.
Education Minister Nobutaka Machimura told a separate news conference the same day that Seoul would understand Japan’s approval of the book once the ambassador explains the government and Education Ministry’s actions prior to the approval, as well as the revisions that have been made from the draft.
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