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The Foreign Ministry is seeking to counter anti-Japan sentiment in China and South Korea by bolstering its Internet-based public relations operations.

To this end, it has created a new section and has given its home pages a facelift.

“Now, a part of (the undertaking of) diplomacy is going to be shouldered by information technology,” said a ministry official in explaining why the IT Public Relations Section was created on July 25. The ministry had started reviewing its internal setup in May.

“We must put a great deal of effort into IT public relations to foster an understanding of Japan in neighboring countries,” the official said. “For that, private viewpoints and speed are required.”

Anti-Japanese demonstrations rampant in various parts of China in April prompted the ministry to take action, with many of the young protesters having reportedly responded to calls from the “Anti-Japan Net.”

According the Chinese government-affiliated China Internet Information Center, the number of Internet users in the country increased drastically to reach 94 million at the end of 2004, the second-largest number after the U.S.

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, who has also served as education minister, first instructed his officials to address Chinese and South Korean “misunderstanding” of Japanese history textbooks. Recently approved texts penned by nationalist scholars have drawn strong condemnation, especially from the two countries, which say the books whitewash Japan’s wartime atrocities.

In June, the ministry created a home page corner explaining Japan’s textbook screening system. It says: “Private publishing companies write textbooks, and boards of educations and others make a final decision on their use.”

Machimura, who claims Japanese texts do not glorify aggression and colonial rule, has decided to make English, Chinese and Korean versions of the books available on the Net.

The ministry on July 25 appointed Yoshihiro Kamimura, a former director of IBM Japan Ltd., to head up the new section.

The new section is in charge of the unified management of four home pages — the Japanese-language and English-language home pages, the overseas diplomatic mission home page and a home page introducing Japan.

China hits Machimura

BEIJING (Kyodo) A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman blasted Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura on Friday over his assertion that Japan and its Asian neighbors should overcome their differences over the war-related Yasukuni Shrine.

“If the Japanese side cannot look at and solve its own problems and continues to take an attitude that interferes with the rightful concerns of the people of victimized countries, it will be difficult to remove obstacles in Japan’s relations with surrounding countries,” Kong Quan said in a statement.

“This will not be beneficial for Japan itself at all.”

The statement was posted on the ministry’s Web site.

Machimura voiced confidence Monday, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, that Japan can improve its relations with other parts of Asia, including China and South Korea, despite the Yasukuni Shrine issue.

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