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Japan considers pulling UNESCO funding over Nanjing row

13 october 2015, 15:00
0

Japan warned Tuesday that it might pull funding for UNESCO to protest last week's decision to inscribe documents related to the Nanjing massacre in its Memory of the World register, AFP reports.

On Friday the UN cultural and scientific body agreed to a request by Beijing to mark documents recording the mass murder and rape committed by Japanese troops after the fall of the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937.

The massacre, often referred to as the "Rape of Nanjing", is an exceptionally sensitive issue in the often-tense relations between Japan and China, with Beijing charging that Tokyo has failed to atone for the atrocity.

Tokyo -- one of UNESCO's largest funders -- had called for the Nanjing documents not to be included and accused the body of being politicised.

"I think it's a problem," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters, adding that Japan has "totally different opinions from those of China" when it comes to the siege of Nanjing. 

"We strongly demand transparency and fairness so that this education project is not used politically," the top government spokesman said.

"We want to consider reviewing every possible measure, including a suspension of paying our country's contributions," he said without elaboration.

Tokyo's foreign ministry says it gave around $31 million to UNESCO in 2014, or 10.8 percent of Japan's budget for the UN. 

Suga made the remarks as senior Beijing envoy Yang Jiechi arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday, the highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to make an official trip to Japan in several years.

Yang, China's top foreign policymaker, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday.

The Japanese military invaded China in the 1930s and the two countries fought a full-scale war from 1937 until Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945.

China says 300,000 people died in a six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction after the Japanese military entered Nanjing. 

Some respected foreign academics put the number lower but there is very little mainstream scholarship doubting that a massacre took place.

Japan's official position is that "the killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred", though adds "it is difficult to determine" the correct number of victims.

However, some conservatives and nationalists deny that atrocities were committed, a source of regular regional friction.

Beijing has rejected Japan's protest over the UNESCO move. 

"Japan's protest is unreasonable," said Guo Biqiang of the Second Historical Archives of China, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.  

Tokyo frequently clashes with its Asian neighbours over its war record, with many accusing the country of failing to atone for its atrocities or recognise the suffering that took place under the yoke of Japanese militarism.

The Memory of the World register, set up in 1992, is aimed at preserving humanity's documentary heritage, and currently holds 348 documents and archives that come from countries all over the world.


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