BEIJING - China yesterday criticised Japan's Prime Minister for drawing an analogy between Russia's behaviour in Crimea and China's actions in the disputed East and South China seas, accusing Mr Shinzo Abe of hypocrisy.
Japan's Kyodo news agency said Mr Abe raised the issue at a Group of 7 meeting this month, warning that China was trying to change the status quo through coercion, and said something similar to Russia's seizure of Crimea could happen in Asia.
At the meeting in The Hague, Mr Abe said "it is important to show a common understanding among Japan, the United States and South Korea that the international order and the rule of law should be respected and that it is unacceptable to alter the status quo, backed by the use of force".
The comment appeared to refer to China's actions regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
"Abe did not single out China by name," said the Yomiuri Shimbun in a Thursday editorial, but he made "an important point".
"China has been strengthening its military capabilities and demonstrating moves in an apparent attempt to expand its territories and maritime interests in the East China Sea and South China Sea.
"To deter China from resorting to adventurism, as Moscow has recently done by incorporating Crimea into Russia, it is vital that Japan, South Korea and the United States hold a common view that any attempt to change the status quo by force will not be tolerated, and urge China to behave responsibly," wrote the Japanese paper.
The day before, the paper's editorial said the "Crimea issue has massive implications for Japan, which faces China's repeated intrusions into Japanese territorial waters in areas near the Senkaku islands in Okinawa Prefecture".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei yesterday said those comments were completely out of place, and launched a personal attack on Mr Abe, using unusually strong language.
"We've long since said that this Japanese leader on the one hand hypocritically proposes improving Sino-Japan ties and on the other says bad things about China wherever he is internationally. These comments again expose his true face," Mr Hong told a daily news briefing.
"He tries in vain on the international stage to mislead the public with prevarication and deliberate falsehoods and blacken China's name... But this cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the international community."
Mr Hong said it was Japan which had "illegally snatched" uninhabited isles, called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan, at the centre of the territorial row.
China was resolute in its determination to protect its sovereignty in the East and South China seas, and wanted these disputes resolved via dialogue, he added.
Beijing's ties with Tokyo have long been poisoned by what China sees as Japan's failure to atone for its brutal occupation of parts of China before and during World War II.
Beijing's anger over the past is never far from the surface, and relations have deteriorated sharply over the past two years because of the island dispute.
China's claims over islands, reefs and atolls in resource-rich waters off its south coast and to the east of mainland South-east Asia have also set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines. Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia have territorial claims too.
REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST