PARIS – The government has weighed in again on Thursday over UNESCO’s acceptance of Chinese records of a wartime atrocity, demanding that the United Nations’ culture agency “swiftly improve” its procedures.
Culture minister Hiroshi Hase spoke up at UNESCO’s General Conference after the body accepted for its Memory of the World program papers China submitted relating to the 1937 Nanking Massacre.
“We need to promote discussions to swiftly improve governance and transparency” of the program’s register, Hase said.
It is the first time since 2005 that a Japanese culture minister has addressed the conference. Hase stopped short of saying which areas he believes need improvement.
He made no mention of Japan cutting or suspending its funding for the Paris-based organization, as Japanese officials have warned it might.
The government is irritated that UNESCO accepted in October papers titled “Documents of Nanjing Massacre” submitted by China for inclusion in the Memory of the World register. Widely accepted as a slaughter, the two countries nevertheless disagree on how many Chinese civilians and soldiers were killed by the Imperial Japanese military following the 1937 capture of Nanking, now known as Nanjing.
Tokyo cites historians’ estimates ranging from tens of thousands to 200,000, while Beijing says over 300,000 were killed.
Japan itself stirred controversy when it succeeded in getting World Cultural Heritage status for a group of historical industrial sites that included places where Koreans were forced to labor during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
“Understanding the diversity of cultures and preserving precious tangible, intangible, documentary and other heritage” is in line with the UNESCO Constitution, Hase said.
He said the charter declares the need to construct “defenses of peace” in the minds of people.
Critics in Japan have called into question the registration process of the Memory of the World program, as discussions by its International Advisory Committee are not made public and countries involved have no opportunity to take part.
On the Nanking Massacre registration, Japan’s top government spokesman has criticized the U.N. body for “unilaterally” registering documents submitted by China without allowing Japan to access them for verification, “especially when there are conflicting views between Japan and China, and doubts about the veracity of the documents.”
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