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China publishes bundled confessions of 45 Japanese war criminals

BEIJING--After releasing daily confessions of 45 Japanese war criminals, China on Thursday published them in a 6,000-page, 11-volume series of books, state media said — at least the second such set.

The books are Beijing's latest bid to highlight the Asian rivals' bloody history, with relations between them at their worst in years.

The “confessions” — of 45 war criminals who were tried and convicted by military courts in China after the war — have been released online by the State Archives Administration (SAA) on a daily basis since early July.

The new books will compile scans of the men's original hand-written accounts, along with translations.

They are being published as “authorities continue their drive to raise awareness on China's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression,” Xinhua News Agency said.

It did not disclose how much the set would cost, but a previous collection of 10 books containing confessions from the same soldiers was published in 2005, priced at 3,120 yuan (now just over US$500).

In the first “confession,” dated 1954 and 38 pages long, Keiku Suzuki, described as a lieutenant general and commander of Japan's 117th Division, admitted ordering a Colonel Taisuke to “burn down the houses of about 800 households and slaughter 1,000 Chinese peasants in a mop-up operation” in the Tangshan area, according to the official translation.

Among a litany of other crimes with a total toll in the thousands, he also confessed that he “cruelly killed 235 Chinese peasants seeking refuge in a village near Lujiayu (cutting open the bellies of pregnant women among them).”

In another, Hideo Sakakibara of the notorious biological warfare Unit 731 confessed to taking part in a “killing experiment” in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, in which “pottery bombs” filled with anthrax bacteria were dropped on Chinese captives tied to poles buried in the ground.

China regularly accuses Japan of failing to face up to its history of aggression in Asia, criticism that has intensified since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was elected in December 2012 and has advocated a more muscular defense and foreign policy stance.

Chinese researchers say that more than 20 million people died as a result of Japan's invasion and occupation.

But Beijing is far less willing to recognize the role of the ruling Communist Party in domestic disasters such as Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward and the ensuing famine that killed tens of millions of people.

The publications of the confessions come as Tokyo and Beijing are embroiled in a territorial row in the East China Sea over tiny islets known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

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