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June 29, 2017

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Japan to teach of 'undisputed' islands

TOKYO -- Japanese education chiefs will for the first time instruct schools to teach children that islands disputed with China and South Korea belong unequivocally to Tokyo, the government said Tuesday.

The announcement immediately prompted anger in Seoul, which called in the Japanese ambassador and warned of "reciprocal countermeasures" if the changes are not withdrawn immediately.

Revised teachers' manuals for junior and senior high schools will be issued to education boards across the nation, a Japanese education ministry official said.

"From the educational point of view, it is natural for a state to teach its children about integral parts of its own territory," Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told a news conference on Tuesday.

The move comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stirred controversy with his unabashed nationalism, including a visit to a war shrine widely viewed by neighboring countries as a symbol of Tokyo's wartime aggression.

Japan is embroiled in a row with China over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, claimed as the Diaoyus by Beijing.

The dispute regularly sees standoffs between paramilitary ships and has also involved military vessels and planes. Some observers say the islands represent a key fault line for the region and could be the spark for an armed conflict.

Beijing's reaction was muted, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying the Chinese government was "severely concerned" and had launched "solemn representations."

"We want to stress that the Diaoyu islands and their affiliated islands have been China's inherent territory since ancient times," she said.

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