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Japan revising teaching manuals to reflect official view on disputed islands

A protester holds a defaced portrait of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to denounce Japan's sovereignty that claims over the disputed islets called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. South Korea government on Tuesday protested Japan's decision to state its claim to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo in the new teaching manuals for Japanese textbooks for middle and high schools. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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A protester holds a defaced portrait of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to denounce Japan's sovereignty that claims over the disputed islets called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. South Korea government on Tuesday protested Japan's decision to state its claim to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo in the new teaching manuals for Japanese textbooks for middle and high schools. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

TOKYO - The Japanese government announced Tuesday it is revising official teaching manuals to emphasize Japan's territorial rights to islands that are also claimed by China and South Korea.

The Education Ministry said the decision was made to reflect the government's official view on the territorial claims. The revision is seen as part of education reform by conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to instil patriotism and nationalism.

"Naturally, we must teach our own territory accurately to our children," Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told reporters.

The announcement drew angry reactions from Beijing and Seoul.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying reiterated the country's claim to the islands, urging Tokyo to "stop provocations" and take steps to improve relations. South Korea's Foreign Ministry denounced the changes and demanded their withdrawal, with spokesman Cho Tai-young saying Japan "must not teach false history to the young generation and plant enmity and seeds of conflict with its neighbours."

Even though use of the manuals is not legally binding, the policy change will affect the contents of future textbooks, which need to be screened by the government. The revision affects ministry-issued teaching manuals for junior high and high school social studies classes, effective immediately.

Ministry officials say the manuals currently in use do not mention the Japanese-claimed East China Sea islands, which are also claimed by China, and that the reference to Japanese-claimed islands held by South Korea in the Japan Sea is too soft. The textbooks and manuals already mention Japan's territorial claim over Russian-controlled northern islands.

With the revisions, teachers are asked to mention that the islands are "integral territories of Japan." The islands are flashpoints in Japan's diplomatic relations with China and South Korea. The East China Sea islands are called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, while those in the Sea of Japan are called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

Separately, the Education Ministry earlier this month adopted a textbook screening policy that would require writers to reflect the government's official position on contentious issues in modern history to "balance out" references to Japan's wartime aggression, including the forced use of sex slaves for Japanese troops and the Nanking massacre, in which an estimated 300,000 Chinese citizens were killed by Japanese forces.

As Japan steps up its territorial claims under Abe's government, the Cabinet Secretariat recently launched a special website designed to increase domestic awareness and support for the claims.

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Associated Press news assistant Zhao Liang in Beijing contributed to this report.

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