Angered by the UN’s decision to add documents to its Memory of the World program dealing with the Nanjing Massacre, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshida Suga, has threatened to withdraw Japan’s funding for UNESCO.
The chief secretary stated that “Japan would like fairness and transparency in the Memory of the World program so that it would not be used for political purposes.” He went on to say that in light of UNESCO’s decision Japan would “look into all possibilities and revisions, including halting payments.” Suga asserts that the UNESCO’s decision reflects only China’s perception of the 1937 Rape of Nanking.
Japan’s foreign ministry also challenged the documents by arguing that they “were based on the People’s Republic of China’s unilateral assertions, and that the Government of Japan believes that there are obvious problems with the documents’ integrity and authenticity.”
In response, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, claimed that nothing was wrong with the documents, and that regardless of what Japan is willing to do it cannot, “rub away its stains from history.”
The materials submitted consist of documents about the massacre, as well as post-war investigation and trials that were documented by the Chinese National Government’s Military Tribunal after the war. They also include photos and the film footage of one American missionary who witnessed the six weeks of bloodshed in the aftermath of the Battle of Nanjing.
According to the Chinese government, Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in the massacre, although a post war tribunal put the number at about half of China’s estimates.
UNESCO, however, did not agree to accept documents submitted concerning Japan’s alleged use of “comfort women” during the war.
Japan is by no means a small contributor to UNESCO’s funding. In 2014 it provided 3.72 billion yen ($31 million), accounting for 10.8% of its funding. Within Japan many newspapers condemned or criticized the decision. The conservative Yomiuri Shimbun criticized China for its use of a cultural tool to define a political narrative, while the liberal Asahi Shimbun questioned whether China’s claimed death toll of 300,000 was exaggerated. It was actually the work of Japanese journalists that uncovered many of the brutal crimes committed in Nanjing.
If it is of any consolation, at least it can be said that famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami understands the need for reconciliation.
By Stanley Yu