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Shiro Takahashi

【#332】Japan Should Urgently Organize Team to Deal with UNESCO Problem

Shiro Takahashi / 2015.10.20 (Tue)

October 19, 2015

     At its October 4-6 meeting in Abu Dhabi, the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) International Advisory Committee decided to inscribe “Nanjing Massacre” records in the Memory of the World Register as nominated by China, while refusing to accept records on "comfort women" in the register. What are factors behind Japanese diplomacy's disastrous failure to prevent the “Nanjing Massacre” records from being accepted? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should take the initiative in organizing a team to verify the UNESCO process from China's nomination of the records to the UNESCO approval and Japan’s response, and to study what Japan should urgently do and how Japan should promote international public relations and communications.

Six proposals for Japan's response
     At a joint meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Foreign Affairs Division, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Division, the Headquarters for Regional Diplomatic and Economic Partnership, the Global Information Study Committee and the Special Committee for Recovery of Japan's Honor and Credibility I made specific proposals while pointing out problems and challenges I felt when I attended the Abu Dhabi meeting as observer. Based on them, I would like to make the following urgent proposals:
 (1) Japan should list up problematic records among the "Nanjing Massacre" records from the viewpoint of authenticity and comprehensiveness and call for cancelling their inscription in the UNESCO register.
 (2) Japan should ask UNESCO to reform the Memory of the World Program to publish all historical documents nominated for the inscription and hold open discussion on them under a more transparent system. As the 58-country UNESCO Executive Board can revise the inscription system by a two-thirds majority, Japan should immediately launch preparations for the request.
 (3) The prime minister (or his office) should take the initiative to organize a study and consultation team consisting of representatives from the foreign and education ministries and the academia to review the inscribed “Nanjing Massacre” records and draft a rebuttal against them. The team should also review China-nominated records on war-time comfort women, study Chinese comfort women, analyze a plan by an international commission composed of six countries including China and South Korea to nominate comfort women records for inscription in the UNESCO register next March, and draft a rebuttal against the records.
 (4) Based on the result of the study, governmental views and “History Issues Q&A” on the foreign ministry’s website should thoroughly be revised.
 (5) A LDP special committee should review the Tokyo Tribunal of War Criminals records on which the China-nominated “Nanjing Massacre” records are based. The committee should cooperate with a Tokyo Tribunal research project that Kokushikan University is implementing to mark its centennial.
 (6) Given that an application for inscribing comfort women records can be filed with the Memory of the World Committee for Asia/Pacific, Japan should send its representatives to the committee of which members will be elected next May. Three years ago, the then Japanese government led by the Democratic Party of Japan rejected a proposal for Japan's participation in the committee. A matter of concern is that China (with four committee members including the chairperson and the secretary general) and South Korea (with the vice chairperson) account for half the committee.

China provides $0.1m for research on comfort women
     The Chinese government has been preparing for the application since two years ago, providing Shanghai Normal University with $110,000 worth of funds for research on comfort women. The Women's Rights Promotion Bureau of the South Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family is promoting a plan to join the Chinese application. Unless the prime minister takes the initiative in making arrangements for public-private cooperation to counter such China-South Korea collaboration, Japan would surely face a historic diplomatic defeat again when the application is screened in two years.

Shiro Takahashi is Director, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Meisei University.