The way Japan’s wartime past is described in history textbooks officially approved Tuesday does not necessarily reflect Japanese policy, according to Akira Chiba, assistant press secretary at the Foreign Ministry.

The ministry was apparently trying to play down any diplomatic fallout resulting from the education ministry’s approval the same day of several junior high school history textbooks for the 2006 school year.

The books have been criticized for presenting a whitewashed view of Japan’s wartime aggression and refer to disputed South Korea-controlled isles between Japan and South Korea as Takeshima instead of the Korean name Tok-do.

Chiba stressed that the textbooks were screened by a neutral body under the education ministry based on its criteria.

“The government does not decide on the content of the textbook nor does the government support it,” Chiba told a news conference. “The government does not compile textbooks.”

Japan remains committed to a statement released in 1995 by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, saying Tokyo offers a profound apology to the victims of Japan’s invasion of Asia before and during World War II, Chiba said.

Chiba’s comments come amid rising tensions between Japan and its two most important neighbors, China and South Korea, in part over Japan’s past aggression.

In China, mobs attacked Japanese supermarkets and department stores over the weekend to protest Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. China has said Japan should “clarify its stance” on its wartime past if it wants to fulfill its responsibility as a great power in the U.N. Security Council.

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