Japanese education chiefs will for the first time instruct schools to teach children that islands disputed with China and South Korea belong unequivocally to Tokyo, the Japanese government said yesterday.
The announcement immediately prompted anger in Seoul, which called in the Japanese ambassador and warned of “reciprocal countermeasures” if the changes are not withdrawn immediately.
Revised teachers’ manuals for junior and senior-high schools will be issued to education boards across the nation, a Japanese education ministry official said.
“From the educational point of view, it is natural for a state to teach its children about integral parts of its own territory,” Japanese Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told a news conference.
The move comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stirred controversy with his unabashed nationalism, including a visit to a war shrine widely viewed by neighboring countries as a symbol of Tokyo’s wartime aggression.
Japan is embroiled in a row with China over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands (釣魚島) in China, and which Taiwan also claims.
Beijing’s reaction was muted, with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chun-ying (華春瑩) saying the Chinese government was “severely concerned” and had launched “solemn representations.”
Tokyo and Seoul, meanwhile, are at odds over the sovereignty of a pair of sparsely inhabited rocks in waters between them, administered by Seoul as the Dokdo, but claimed as Takeshima in Japan.
The new manuals describe both sets of islands as “integral parts of Japanese territory” for the first time, the official said.
The manuals will also note that the Takeshima Islands are “illegally” occupied by South Korea, and that Japan does not even recognize the existence of a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, the official said.
The previous manuals instructed teachers only to refer to a difference in Japanese and South Korean positions on Takeshima, while there were no remarks on the Senkakus.