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Japan Goes on Offensive Over Asian History Textbooks

Chinese man browses newspaper showing a picture of Chinese President Hu Jintao, right, and Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi with headlines 'Japan must change reflections into actions'
After weeks of criticism, Japan appears to be going on the offensive with China - ordering officials to examine Chinese textbooks for anti-Japanese references. Japan's portrayal of its 20th century militarism in new schoolbooks led to weeks of anti-Japanese rallies in China.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stood before leaders at the Asian-African summit in Indonesia and again apologized for suffering caused by his nation's early 20th century militarism.

It was only then that Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to meet him to discuss weeks of sometimes-violent demonstrations against Japanese diplomatic and business interests. The protesters were angry about new Japanese school texts allegedly whitewashing Japanese atrocities in China before and during World War II.

Saturday, Mr. Hu again told Mr. Koizumi that he should carefully reflect on his nation's past. No apology was offered for damage to Japanese property during the recent demonstrations.

Now it appears Tokyo has gone on the offensive, defending its school history texts and deciding to look at China's sense of history.

Press Secretary Hatsuhisa Takashima says Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura has ordered Japan government officials to examine Chinese textbooks for anti-Japanese bias.

"And if there is any sort of content as such then the Japanese side would, in due course, raise this issue with the Chinese, and we will have a discussion on this issue with the Chinese," he said.

Mr. Takashima says Japan's books do not glorify any past aggression and stress the pacifist Japan since 1945. The textbooks in question were authored by a nationalist organization, but are only used in several-dozen schools.

As for more talks to ease tensions, Mr. Takashima says Japan is hoping China's president will accept an open invitation to visit.

"This kind of exchange is very much necessary in order to further promote the relations between Japan and China," said Mr. Takashima.

Mr. Takashima acknowledges there are still many issues to be discussed, including gas development in disputed waters and Mr. Koizumi's controversial visits to Yasukuni shrine, where Japan's war dead are honored.