Tokyo protested to Beijing yesterday after the latter applied to include the 1937 Nanjing massacre and the “comfort women” forced to work in Japan’s World War Two military brothels in a UNESCO history program.
Ties between the world’s second and third-largest economies, have been strained by a territorial row over a group of East China Sea islets also claimed by Taiwan, as well as Beijing’s allegations that Tokyo has not properly atoned for its wartime aggression.
“It is extremely regrettable that China is trying to play up a negative legacy from a certain period in Sino-Japanese history by using UNESCO for a political purpose, when effort needs to be made to improve ties between Japan and China,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference. “Today, we made a protest and asked China for a withdrawal.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said Beijing had submitted an application to UNESCO to include the issues of the “comfort women” — many from Taiwan, South Korea and China — who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels, as well as the 1937 mass killings in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.
China said its bid is part of a need to “remember history, cherish peace and avert similar atrocities from happening again.”
UNESCO’s Memory of the World program was launched in the 1990s and since then has registered dozens of projects to reflect the “documentary heritage” of different periods. Documents include Britain’s 13th-century Magna Carta and an annotated copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.
China consistently reminds its citizens of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in which it says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in China’s then-capital, but some conservative Japanese politicians and academics deny that it took place.
In February, China condemned an application by a Japanese city to ask UNESCO to register in the same program the wills and farewell letters of WWII kamikaze pilots to highlight world peace.