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The government has asked a publisher to postpone selling a controversial history textbook until local education boards have selected which books they will have schools use, Education Minister Atsuko Toyama said Friday.

“Because it may affect the selections, we have asked Fuso Publishing Co. to begin selling it after the selections are done,” Toyama told a news conference.

The textbook in question was compiled by a group of nationalist historians and after a number of revisions, the textbook was given the green light for use in junior high schools beginning April — drawing criticism from South Korea and China.

Education boards are expected to decide by summer which of several authorized textbooks will be used.

Fuso plans to begin selling the book to general readers June 4 for 980 yen.

Usually authorized textbooks have been put on sale after education board decisions are made, but there is no law banning an early sale.

A ministry official said it would be inappropriate if someone bought the books and introduced them into the selection process.

The ministry limits distributions of samples of a textbook to the education boards to 10,000 volumes.

“There would not be any problem under the law,” a Fuso spokesman said. “The mass media have promoted an impression that our textbook distorts history. We have decided to publish them because we want people to actually read them and make their own judgment.”

Yoshifumi Tawara, secretary general of the Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, said the ministry should instruct the publisher not to sell the book before boards make their selections, adding: “If you actually read Fuso Publishing’s textbook, you can well understand that it is written based on extreme assumptions. It may be better that the book be sold to the general public.”

South Korea and China have demanded the textbook be further revised, claiming it tries to justify Japanese military aggression before and during World War II. Tokyo has ruled out further revisions.

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