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Japan-China joint history study delayed: project head

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 16, 2009
A joint history study between Japan and China has been delayed due to differences of opinion, its head said Friday, amid a report Beijing was upset at a reference to the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Asian powers launched the project in 2007 to draw an outline of their common history, hoping to ease longstanding strains over Japan's wartime invasion of China.

But the historians missed a goal of submitting a report to the two governments by mid-2008.

The report was delayed "because of difficulties in adjusting opinions over a few issues," said Shinichi Kitaoka, the head of the joint study and a professor at the prestigious University of Tokyo.

"But we aim to finish our task by the end of this fiscal year" in March, he told AFP.

Kitaoka denied a report by the conservative Sankei Shimbun that the two countries had clashed over making a reference to China's clampdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Chinese authorities rarely speak publicly about the weeks of protests in 1989, which ended in a bloody crackdown that left hundreds and possibly thousands dead.

The Sankei, quoting unnamed sources, said Chinese historians wanted to delete a reference to the massacre and also clashed with their counterparts over Tokyo's assertions that Chinese education had an anti-Japanese bias.

Kitaoka rejected the newspaper's account, saying: "This kind of report harms our efforts at a joint study."

He declined to specify the areas of disagreement, explaining: "We are debating how to describe historical events, but this is within the realm of normal discussion."

Japan and China agreed to the joint study as part of a reconciliation drive launched in 2006 after years of tension.

China allowed rare protests in 2005 when demonstrators attacked Japanese interests to denounce Tokyo's approval of a textbook accused of whitewashing Japanese atrocities in China.

The protests took place as Beijing scuttled Japan's longtime bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

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