Beijing rejected Tokyo's demand on Wednesday to withdraw China's application to UNESCO to include the experience of "comfort women" in the UN body's Memory of the World programme.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that the application had been submitted, sparking a response from Tokyo on Wednesday morning when Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denounced the application. Suga said "it is extremely regrettable" and accused China of "making political use of the UNESCO forum and to unnecessarily play up the negative legacy of ties from a period of the past".
However, revisionist remarks made by prominent Japanese figures in recent months - some explicitly denying that the Japanese wartime army forced Asian women into sexual slavery - have once again prompted global concern.
"Equivocations from senior Japanese politicians - including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - have exacerbated the impression that Tokyo wants the world to forget the horrific practice," AFP commented on Wednesday.
Suga, Tokyo's top spokesperson, also stated that the Japanese side had protested to Beijing in this regard, demanding a withdrawal of the application.
But the response from Beijing was firm.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Wednesday: "We will not accept the unreasonable request from Japan and we will not withdraw the application."