History study moves to Japan in March

By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-12-28 07:03

A man looks at photos on display depicting the suffering of vililians in Shanghai during the Japanese aggression at the Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Agression in Beijing yesterday. [AFP]

Chinese and Japanese academics, seeing glimmers of hope, agreed to meet in Tokyo in March to try to narrow differences on historical issues.

The first joint study session, which did not touch upon any specific issues but laid the groundwork for future working processes and topics, concluded yesterday in Beijing.

Describing the meeting as "serious, frank and friendly," Shinichi Kitaoka, the head of the Japanese 10-member team, said it was a good beginning. Three more sessions are scheduled.

The second session will last three days. The third round will take place next December, with the last one in June 2008. when the outcome of the study is expected to be released.

Representatives from Beijing and Tokyo will chair the meetings in turn.

Kitaoka, a professor at Tokyo University and the former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations, said the specific issues for discussion will not be decided until March, but the Nanjing Massacre and the issue of the Yasukuni shrine may be covered in the research.

He said the government-mandated talks provide a platform for historians from both countries to speak their minds freely to narrow the gap in interpreting history.

"Mutual understanding is key to the joint study," Kitaoka said in a press briefing yesterday, saying plenty of time was devoted in the two-day session to enable both sides introduce their study methodology.

The joint study is scheduled to discuss relations during the past 2,000 years with a large focus on modern history and specifically the development of ties since World War II.

One of the two sub-panels focuses on ancient, medieval and early-modern history, and the other on contemporary history.

According to Kitaoka, more history scholars will be engaged in the sub-panels because of the extensive topics.

President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed in October to begin the joint history study, aimed at coming to a mutual understanding, by the end of the year.

At the APEC meeting in November in Hanoi, Viet Nam, foreign ministers of both countries exchanged views on establishing the joint research project.

Each side has 10 scholars in history, international politics and diplomacy, with senior modern history researcher Bu Ping of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences heading the Chinese side.

Bu said at the opening ceremony of the talks on Tuesday that sharing a common understanding on history is a difficult task

However, he was optimistic that some consensus on the major historical issues could be reached, saying recent developments in bilateral ties have provided a favourable atmosphere for the work.

The Chinese Government considered the joint study a "very correct decision," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Tuesday.

He said the talks should be based on the three Sino-Japanese political documents and adhere to the spirit of "taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future."

Japan has held a similar joint history study with the Republic of Korea, which also suffered from Japanese wartime atrocities.

(China Daily 12/28/2006 page2)

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