Japan has made its annual contribution to UNESCO after withholding the funds over the U.N. heritage body’s decision to include “Documents of Nanjing Massacre” in its Memory of the World program, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday, citing UNESCO reforms as the reason for the change of heart.
The bitter legacy of Japan’s savage military aggression before and during World War II is still straining Sino-Japanese ties more than 70 years after the end of the conflict. UNESCO last year decided to include the Chinese dossier on the 1937 massacre as part of an installment for Memory of the World, a program intended to preserve important historical materials.
Japan questioned the authenticity of the massacre documents and called for improvements in the “fairness and transparency” of the Memory of the World program to avoid it being used for political purposes.
Kishida told reporters that Japan made its ¥3.85 billion payment earlier in the week.
“I think there has been major progress in work on reforming the (selection) system,” he said, adding that UNESCO helped promote friendship and mutual understanding among member nations.
Domestic media reports said Tokyo was worried that non-payment would hurt its global standing and weaken its clout in the U.N. body.
China said there was nothing wrong with the documents or the application process and criticized Japan for withholding the funds.
According to China, Imperial Japanese troops killed 300,000 Chinese during a month-long orgy of rape and murder in what was then known as Nanking. A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at about half that number, but some Japanese conservatives say that accounts of the massacre were fabricated, exaggerated or that the event never took place.
Sino-Japanese ties have also been frayed by territorial rows and mutual mistrust over China’s growing military assertiveness, as well as Japan’s bolder stance on security.
The Chinese dossier, covering the period from Dec. 13, 1937, to early 1938, includes court documents from the Allied tribunal and a separate Chinese military tribunal, as well as photographs said to be taken by the Japanese army and film taken by an American missionary.