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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Singapore accuses Japan of straining Asian ties


"Singapore accuses Japan of straining Asian ties"
Fri Apr 22, 2005 04:01 AM ET

By Jason Szep

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The predominantly ethnic Chinese city-state of
Singapore accused Japan on Friday of straining relations with its
neighbours for approving school textbooks that critics say whitewash
its wartime atrocities.

In an unusually blunt statement, Singapore's foreign affairs ministry
said Japan should not have approved the privately published textbooks,
which have prompted protests across China.

"It is unfortunate that the textbook authorities in Japan had chosen
to approve this rather strange interpretation of the Pacific War in
Asia," the Singapore statement said.

"It has strained relations between Japan and its neighbours, in
particular China and Korea. This is not in the interest of the entire
region."

Thousands have demonstrated in China against the textbooks, which
critics say play down the 1937 Nanking Massacre, when Japanese
soldiers killed Chinese civilians.

China says 300,000 people were killed in the massacre, while some
scholars put the figure at about half that.

Japan's neighbours are also upset that the textbooks also make no
mention of "comfort women", a euphemism for sex slaves taken by the
Japanese army.

Japan occupied Singapore from 1942 until 1945 and renamed it "Syonan"
or "Light of the South".

On beaches off eastern Singapore in February 1942, Japanese soldiers
shot dead or beheaded thousands of ethnic Chinese Singaporeans in a
massacre known as the "Sook Ching" -- or "purification by
elimination".

The official death toll was 6,000 but unofficial figures ranged from
25,000 to 50,000, and many older Singaporeans still vividly remember
the mass killings.

"If there is one single event that still resonates it would be
so-called Sook Ching round up," said National University of Singapore
history professor Brian Farrell, author of "Between Two Oceans: A
Military History of Singapore".

During a visit to Indonesia on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi apologised for the "tremendous damage and suffering"
caused by Japan's wartime past in an apparent effort to help douse the
row with China.

The apology conforms with past statements by Tokyo but such an
admission in front of an international audience is rare.

The statement comes eight months after Singapore riled Beijing when
now Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Taiwan as deputy premier.
After that incident, Singapore took pains to assuage Beijing to limit
the damage to its trade with China.

The Singapore foreign affairs ministry said World War Two should not
be forgotten.

"But we hope that the countries concerned can keep emotions in check
and work towards a solution so that, while history is properly
remembered, it does not become an insurmountable problem in the
development of good relations," it added.


(c) Reuters 2005


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