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ROK Summons Japan Envoy over Textbook Row

Republic of Korea (ROK) summoned Japan's ambassador yesterday to protest against the approval of a history textbook critics say whitewashes Japanese militarism and Tokyo's claims over disputed islands, officials in Seoul said.

Seoul would also send its top envoy in Tokyo to Japan's foreign ministry to make a similar protest, the ROK foreign ministry officials said.

Japan's deputy chief cabinet secretary Seiken Sugiura called for calm on both sides over the historical issues.

"The basic (stance) is to develop future-oriented, friendly relations," he told a press conference in Tokyo.

ROK has long been unhappy over what it sees as a Japanese failure to have full contrition for its past military aggression in Asia and its often brutal 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

In 1998, Japan issued a written apology for its colonial rule over Korea, and relations between the two countries had been warming in recent years.

But Japan's approval of a new edition of a history book and a recent flare up in a dispute over desolate islands lying about an equal distance from the shores of the two countries has caused animosity in ROK toward Japan to build.

Tokyo approved on Tuesday the new textbook that critics say brushes aside Japanese atrocities in China, Korea and other parts of Asia in the first half of the 20th century.

Japan's Ministry of Education first approved the book, written by 'nationalist' scholars for junior high schools, in 2001 in the face of strong protests from Japan's Asian neighbors.

The territorial dispute involves rocky outcrops that are called Tokto in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Tensions flared over the islands at the end of February when Japan's ambassador to Seoul, Toshiyuki Takano, restated Tokyo's position that the islands were "historically and legally part of Japanese territory."

The ROK parliament was scheduled to launch a bipartisan special committee on the territorial and history issues when it opens an extra session Wednesday.

Some newspapers in ROK called on Seoul to take a stronger stance against Japan.

"Japan has let our hopes down," the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial.

(China Daily April 7, 2005)

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