Tokyo: Japan has ordered textbooks to delete references to the military, forcing local people to commit suicide in the Battle of Okinawa, in the latest incident highlighting Tokyo’s views of World War II.
The 83-day battle, the bloodiest in the Pacific war, left 190,000 Japanese dead, half of them Okinawan civilians. The US death toll reached 12,520 due to die-hard Japanese resistance on the southern Japanese island chain.
While many civilians perished in the all-out US bombardment, local accounts say Japanese troops forced residents of Okinawa, an independent kingdom until the 19th century, to commit suicide rather than surrender to US forces.
In recent years, nationalist academics have insisted that such suicide pacts were voluntary and not due to orders by troops from mainland Japan.
The education ministry said it ordered changes in a textbook for the first time over the issue. “There were people who were forced by Japanese troops to commit group suicides,” was a sentence in a high school textbook prepared by Shimizu Shoin Co., the ministry said.
The ministry changed the wording to “there were people who were driven into group suicides.” The ministry said in the report: “There have been arguments and counter-arguments on the matter and it is not appropriate to determine that there were military orders.”
The ministry’s action comes a month after an international uproar over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remarks on history.
Abe, known for his nationalist views, said that there was no clear evidence that the military directly coerced Korean and other Asian “comfort women” to work in frontline brothels for Japanese troops during the war.
“I believe the screening system has been followed appropriately,” Abe told reporters. In 2005, protests broke out in China and South Korea after Japan approved textbooks that make little mention of wartime atrocities. China cited the books to block Japan’s cherished bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.