China hits out at Abe's WWI comparison

Davos - China has hit back at Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over a claim that current tensions in East Asia are akin to those between Britain and Germany on the eve of World War I.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos last Friday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he believed the analogy employed by Mr Abe was misplaced.

In the latest salvo in a simmering diplomatic spat, Mr Wang also reiterated China's anger over Mr Abe's recent visit to a shrine which honours the memory of 14 convicted war criminals along with millions of other Japanese war dead.

"It strikes me that his statement is a bit anachronistic because the current era is a world apart from the situation of 100 years ago," Mr Wang said. "The forces for peace in the world, and they include China, are growing."

Mr Abe's comparison of the current situation in East Asia with early 20th-century Europe was designed to make the point that Britain and Germany's developed economic relationship did not prevent them from taking up arms, implying that something similar could happen between China and Japan in the modern era, despite billions of dollars worth of trade and investment ties.

His comments, made to journalists here last Thursday, were part of Tokyo's campaign to alert the world to what it sees as China's growing military assertiveness, which it views as an increasing threat to its own security at a time when US willingness to underwrite it is in increasing doubt.

Mr Wang said a more relevant history lesson would involve recalling Japan's record of military aggression against China and other Asian states: "Reviewing these episodes of history would clearly show who was the instigator of war and the troublemaker."

Britain and the United States both criticised Mr Abe for visiting the shrine, and it also prompted a furious reaction in South Korea.

Against that backdrop, analysts say it is in China's interests to keep the issue simmering as it has a bearing on how the rest of the world sees territorial disputes between Beijing and its neighbours, including one with Tokyo over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Japan currently controls the islands it calls Senkaku. But China, which refers to them as Diaoyu, believes they belong to them and there have been a string of flashpoints involving armed coast guards in recent years.

Mr Abe, who landed in New Delhi yesterday, told the Times of India the "security environment of the Asia-Pacific region is becoming ever more severe".

AFP

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