The education ministry on Tuesday approved 103 textbooks for use in junior high schools from next April, including a revised version of a contentious history book criticized for glossing over Japan’s wartime aggression.

Authorization of the history textbook is expected to raise tensions further with South Korea and China, as it did in 2001, when the book was approved for the first time by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi visited Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi later Tuesday to protest what he described as an alteration of historical facts in the textbook, which is published by Fuso Publishing Inc.

“It damages the public sentiment of Asian nations who were victims” of Japan’s aggression, Wang was quoted as telling Yachi. “It also negatively affects Japan’s image in international society.”

Civics texts that state Japan’s ownership of the South Korea-controlled islets of Takeshima as well as Senkaku might also stoke the two neighbors’ ire.

The history textbook by Fuso Publishing was compiled by members of the nationalist Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform.

The authors revised 124 descriptions of the draft in line with instructions by the government’s Textbook Authorization Research Council’s to gain approval. The number of revisions in 2001 was 137.

One of the 124 revisions in the history text was a side-note referring to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre that stated it as a fact, but only as an “incident.”

The draft said, ” . . . the Tokyo Tribunal recognized the Imperial Japanese Army killed a great number of Chinese people.” The revised version reads, ” . . . a great number of Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed and wounded by the Imperial Japanese Army.”

The council, comprised of scholars and schoolteachers, claimed the original description did not show clearly that the incident actually happened, ministry officials said.

The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform released a comment Tuesday that its history textbook fits the government-set academic guidelines’ goal of instilling in students a love for Japan’s history and making them aware of their national identity.

Critics say the text gives a distorted view of history and could have a negative impact on young generations’ efforts to build better relations with other parts of Asia.

“Using such a textbook makes it difficult for young people to have a balanced perspective of history” of Japan and neighboring Asian nations, said Yoshifumi Tawara, secretary general of the Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, a Tokyo-based civic group working on textbook issues.

Tawara also said that recent remarks by education minister Nariaki Nakayama and other politicians that Japanese history textbooks are self-punishing might have pushed publishers into “self-regulation” in describing Japan’s wartime aggression.

In fact, not one of the eight history textbooks approved Tuesday even mentions “comfort women,” the Japanese euphemism for foreign women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial Japanese Army, and some only make vague references to the fact that women were forced into frontline brothels.

All seven junior high school history textbooks authorized in 1996 used the term “military comfort women.”

Another possible bone of contention is a description in a civics text compiled by the revisionist group and again published by Fuso Publishing.

Its original version says that Japan has been involved in a dispute with China and Taiwan over the ownership of the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China, and with Seoul over Takeshima, a group of South Korea-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan known as Tok-do in South Korea.

The council ordered the publisher to revise the text so the description states that Japan holds the territorial right to Takeshima and Senkaku.

The revised version now says that although the two disputed islands belong to Japan, China has insisted that it owns Senkaku and South Korea is “illegally occupying” Takeshima.

Two other civics textbooks, published by Osaka Shoseki Co. and Tokyo Shoseki Co., have similar references to the disputed territories. But they do not call South Korea’s control of Takeshima “illegal.”

All the civics texts meanwhile continue to refer to the Russian-held islands claimed by Japan off Hokkaido as Japanese territory.

The education ministry allowed junior high school textbooks to deviate from its academic guidelines to boost student academic achievements.

For example, math and science textbooks received 23 percent more pages than those in current use, with advanced content added, the ministry said.

Municipal boards of education must select which texts junior high schools should use by the end of August.

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