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New teaching guidelines for the subjects of kōkyō (public affairs) and chiri sōgō (comprehensive geography) stipulate that four Russian-held northeastern Pacific islands, the Sea of Japan islands of Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea should be described as Japan’s inherent territories.

The guidelines also call on kōkyō and chiri sōgō textbooks to state that Japan is making efforts to resolve the territorial issues over the Russian-controlled islands and Takeshima in a peaceful manner, and that no territorial dispute exists over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.

The Russian-held islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, were seized by the former Soviet Union from Japan at the end of World War II and have long been claimed by Japan.

The islands of Takeshima are under the effective control of South Korea, which calls them Dokdo, and Japan claims the islands as its own territory. The Senkakus are claimed by China, where the islands are called Diaoyu.

The guidelines, set to be used from fiscal 2022, call on textbooks for rekishi sōgō (comprehensive history) to mention the Northern Territories in their descriptions related to border demarcation.

During the education ministry’s recent screenings of high school textbooks, 19 opinions pointing to the lack of such descriptions required under the new teaching guidelines were submitted for six kōkyō textbooks and 10 rekishi sōgō books.

Subsequently, Tokyo Horei Publishing Co. added in its kōkyō textbook wording to the effect that the Senkakus are Japan’s inherent territory.

Another textbook publisher, Suken Shuppan, additionally described in its civics textbook that Japan is making efforts to resolve the issue of Takeshima in a peaceful way and that there is no territorial problem to resolve over the Senkakus.

Opinions seeking clear descriptions that the current Northern Territories were designated as Japan’s territory under the 1855 treaty between Japan and Russia were submitted for almost all rekishi sōgō textbooks.

Some textbook descriptions stating that Russia effectively controls the Northern Territories were amended to describe Russia as illegally occupying the islands.

The education ministry said that the phrase “effective control” could lead to misunderstanding in light of international law.

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