Japan lashes out at UNESCO over Nanjing massacre documents

  • 11/10/2015

By Harumi Ozawa

Japan has lashed out at UNESCO's decision to inscribe documents related to the Nanjing massacre in its Memory of the World register, describing it as "extremely regrettable" and calling for the process to be reformed.

The UN's cultural and scientific body agreed on Friday (local time) to 47 new inscriptions, including a request by Beijing to mark documents recording the mass murder and rape committed by Japanese troops after the fall of the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937.

The massacre, often referred to as the Rape of Nanjing, is an exceptionally sensitive issue in the often-tense relations between Japan and China, with Beijing charging that Tokyo has failed to atone for the atrocity.

Japan had called for the Nanjing documents not to be included and accused UNESCO on Saturday of being politicised.

"It is extremely regrettable that a global organisation that should be neutral and fair entered the documents in the Memory of the World register, despite the repeated pleas made by the Japanese government," Tokyo's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"As a responsible member of UNESCO, the Japanese government will seek a reform of this important project, so that it will not be used politically."

The UNESCO decision came after a two-year process during a meeting of experts given the task of studying nominations from 40 countries.

The new inscriptions were agreed at a meeting that ran from Sunday to Tuesday and was held in the United Arab Emirates.

Chinese state media hailed the decision on Saturday, citing researchers as saying UNESCO's move was an act of "global recognition" for the massacre.

The Japanese military invaded China in the 1930s and the two countries fought a full-scale war from 1937 until Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945.

China says 300,000 people died in a six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction after the Japanese military entered Nanjing.

Japan's official position is that "the killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred" took place, but it adds "it is difficult to determine" the true number of victims.

The Memory of the World register, set up in 1992, is aimed at preserving humanity's documentary heritage, and now holds 348 documents and archives that come from countries all over the world.

Japan had two entries recognised by UNESCO on Friday.

The first was a body of 18th century documents amassed by a Buddhist temple and the second a tranche of documents related to the internment of Japanese prisoners in Siberian labour camps after the end of World War II.