Japan withholds UNESCO funding after Nanjing Massacre row

TOKYO: Japan has withheld its 2016 funding for the UN heritage body UNESCO, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday, following its decision last year to include documents about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in its "Memory of the World" programme.

He did not give a reason, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday the UNESCO decision was problematic given conflicting views of Japan and China and that Tokyo might halt funding.

"We gave an explanation yesterday to a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party on how payment of our contribution has yet to be made," Kishida told reporters, referring to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party.

"As for the future direction, we would like to make a decision in a comprehensive manner."

Ties between China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest economies, have been plagued with a territorial dispute over a group of tiny East China Sea islets and the legacy of Japan's wartime aggression.

China says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in 1937 in its then capital of Nanjing. A postwar Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, but some conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny a massacre took place at all.

UNESCO established the "Memory of the World" programme in 1992 to protect important historical documents and materials.

Japan last year raised questions about the authenticity of the Nanjing Massacre documents submitted by Chinese organisations for the inclusion in the programme and asked for fairness and transparency, prompting an angry retort from China.

Japan had been due to contribute about 3.85 billion yen ($37 million) to UNESCO in 2016, or about 9.7 percent of its total budget.