TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese government announced Tuesday it is revising official teaching manuals to emphasize Japan's territorial rights to islands that are also claimed by China and South Korea.
The Education Ministry says the decision was made to reflect the government's official view on the territorial claims. The revision affects ministry-issued teaching manuals for junior high and high school social studies classes, effective immediately.
The revision is seen as part of education reform by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's nationalist government to instil patriotism and nationalism.
"Naturally, we must teach our own territory accurately to our children," Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told reporters.
The announcement drew an angry reaction from South Korea, with the Foreign Ministry saying in a statement that it "strongly denounced" the changes and demanded that Japan withdraw them.
Even though use of the manuals is not legally binding, the policy change would affect contents of future textbooks, which need to be screened by the government.
Ministry officials say the manuals currently in use do not mention the Japan-claimed East China Sea islands, which are also claimed by China, and that the reference to the Japan-claimed islands held by South Korea in the Japan Sea is too soft. The textbooks and manuals already include Japan's territorial claim over the Russia-controlled northern islands.
With the revision, teachers are asked to mention that the islands are "integral territories of Japan." The islands are flashpoints in Japan's diplomatic relations with China and South Korea.
Separately, the Education Ministry earlier this month adopted a textbook screening policy that would require writers to reflect the government's official position on contentious issues in modern history to "balance out" references to Japan's wartime aggression, including the forced use of sex slaves for its troops and the Nanking massacre where an estimated 300,000 Chinese citizens were killed by Japanese troops.
As Japan steps up territorial claims under Abe's government, the Cabinet Secretariat recently launched a special web site designed to drum up domestic awareness and support over Japanese territorial claims.