The new history textbooks compiled by a Japanese rightist group and approved by the Japanese government are intended to distort history and whitewash wars of aggression launched by Japanese militarists.
The books cannot but arouse profound concerns among the public in Japan and the countries that fell victim to these wars and the international community at large.
Upon examination, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Tuesday gave the go-ahead to the 2002 junior-high school history textbooks compiled under the direction of the rightist group, the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. These officially-endorsed textbooks indicate once again that in today's Japan a handful of ultra rightist forces are still trying by every means to reverse the verdict on Japan's wars of aggression in the past, a verdict which was based on conclusive evidence.
It is the Japanese rightists' customary tactics to distort history and impart to the younger generations an erroneous or even reactionary view of history through textbooks.
As early as 1982 and 1986, two separate attempts were made in Japan to distort history and glorify Japan's wars of aggression by tampering with high-school history textbooks.
In these history textbooks, invasion of other countries was described as "advance" and the Pacific war unleashed by the Japanese militarists became battles to free Asian nations from the rule of European and American powers. These books even played down or distorted such undeniable historical facts as the Nanjing Massacre in 1937.
The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology played an "ignominious role" in both incidents.
This year, the same thing happened again. We cannot but ask: Whom the ministry is siding with?
Claiming that the history textbooks for junior-high schools were "biased" and "full of self-denigration," some Japanese rightist scholars formed the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform in 1997 and started compiling textbooks based on their own view of history.
In the draft textbooks they submitted to the education ministry for examination and approval in April last year, 137 instances were found of distorting history and whitewashing Japan's wars of aggression. In face of strong condemnation by public opinion both at home and abroad, the ministry was compelled to ask the society to revise the draft.
However, despite some minor revisions that amount to a play on words, the textbooks' nature of distorting historical facts and glorifying wars of aggression remained unchanged.
For instance, the draft textbooks made no mention of the Nanjing Massacre. Citing the verdict of the Far East International Tribunal in Tokyo that the Japanese imperialist army killed more than 200,000 Chinese civilians in Nanjing, the draft said that the census data at the time indicated the city's population was only about 200,000 and that one month after the city's occupation, the population rose to 250,000.
The draft went so far as to claim that the incident "left much doubt and controversy remains today because killing during a war is not considered a massacre."
And the final version approved by the education ministry contained little revision as it said that historical records left much doubt about the alleged Nanjing Massacre and that there are different versions of what really happened and controversy still exists today.
The fact that the education ministry gave the green light to textbooks with such allegations gave us every reason to believe that the ministry had offered its tacit support to the intention of a handful of ultra rightists, who use history textbooks to distort history and whitewash the crimes Japan's militarists committed during their invasion of other Asian countries.
We cannot but say the Japanese government is unquestionably responsible for the textbook incident.
Under Japan's current censorship system of textbooks, the ministry, as the government's major organ in charge of such affairs, has the full right in its final examination to ask the compilers to thoroughly revise the problematic textbooks in accordance with historical facts.
The ministry, however, deplorably allowed the publication of the textbooks that distort historical facts and glorify Japan's wars of aggression, in defiance of the voice of justice in Japan and the legitimate demand of other Asian countries.
This will not only again help boost the morale of the rightists, but also mislead Japan's younger generations.
The incident has inevitably caused grave concern among other Asian peoples who suffered severely in the hands of Japanese militarists during World War II.
The officially-endorsed history textbooks should show the attitude of the Japanese government toward historical issues, otherwise they would not need government examination and approval. Therefore, the question of history textbooks is one which concerns whether the Japanese government can correctly understand and deal with its history of aggression.
The Asian countries, upon which Japanese militarists inflicted catastrophe and tremendous sufferings, have the right to ask the Japanese government to adopt a clear-cut and correct attitude toward historical issues and not to connive with the ultra rightists in their attempt to distort history and glorify aggression.
Nevertheless, it is a comfort to see that in today's Japan, many Japanese with conscience are staging a tit-for-tat struggle against the small group of ultra rightists on the textbook issue.
Thousands of justice-holding Japanese history scholars and teachers have voiced their appeal that history should not be taught with textbooks twisting historical facts.
Some Japanese soldiers who participated in the wars of aggression demanded in a statement submitted to the education ministry that the textbooks compiled by the Society for History Textbook Reform should never be brought to classrooms.
Kenzaburo Oe, Japan's well-known writer and winner of the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1994, noted that the society's attempt to keep the young people in dark about the real history through the textbooks will result in nothing but hurt Japan's coming generations.
We have also noted the positive attitude expressed by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori recently to the textbook issue.
Mori said the history textbooks will be examined and approved in the spirit of what former prime minister Tomiichi Murayama said in 1995, who admitted that Japan's colonial rule and aggression caused tremendous sufferings and harm to other Asian countries.
"We hope that the Japanese government would keep its word, implement in earnest what it has promised to the international community and properly solve the textbook problem," the article said.
(People's Daily 04/04/2001)