News / Asia

Japan World War I Remarks Fuel China Tensions

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after delivering a speech calling for dialogue between Japan and  China and South Korea, at the lower house of Parliament in Tokyo, Jan. 24, 2014.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after delivering a speech calling for dialogue between Japan and China and South Korea, at the lower house of Parliament in Tokyo, Jan. 24, 2014.
TEXT SIZE - +
Daniel Schearf
— This week Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared his country's tense relationship with China to that of England and Germany before the outbreak of World War I.

The reference to WW I, which broke out unexpectedly, despite close economic ties between rising and fading empires, did not go unnoticed.
 
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang responded sharply saying such remarks by Japanese leaders are made to evade their history of aggression, to confuse the audience and misplace concepts.  

"What is the significance of making such comparisons?" he asked. "Instead of making an issue of this, it is better for Japan to reflect on its war of aggression."  
 
Tokyo quickly denied Abe's comments were intended to suggest war is inevitable and said they were instead meant to send the message that Japan is against conflict.
 
During his keynote speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Abe also took public jabs at Beijing's military.
 
Although he did not specifically name China, Abe called for restrained military expansion in Asia as well as defense budgets that can be verified.
 
“If peace and stability were shaken in Asia, the knock-on effect for the entire world would be enormous," Abe said. "The dividend of growth in Asia must not be wasted on military expansion.”

China has had double-digit increases in defense spending each year for the last decade.
 
More recently, Beijing has undertaken increasingly assertive patrols in disputed territory in the East and South China Seas and expanded an Air Defense Identification Zone over Japan-administered islands.
 
The aggressive moves have unnerved neighbors already affected by China’s dominant and growing economy.
 
“Abe probably sees China as a modern-day imperial Germany that is prone to aggressive behavior," said Brad Williams, a professor of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong. "That, of course, could trigger conflict despite the deep economic inter-dependence between the two countries.”
 
Japan, under Abe, is also looking to expand the role of its self defense forces and to amend its pacifist constitution.
 
The changes are aimed at allowing collective defense with U.S. forces, but still alarm the country's Korean and Chinese neighbors who suffered under Japan's colonial rule and World War II aggression.
 
Beijing criticizes what it calls Abe's attempts to whitewash Japan's historic atrocities and his December visit to a controversial shrine that honors, among others, World War II war criminals.
 
The war of words has played out overseas in often bitter, and sometime bizarre, exchanges.
 
The Chinese and Japanese ambassadors to England compared each other's military ambitions to “Lord Voldemort,” the evil wizard in the Harry Potter series.

Tokyo Foundation research fellow Bonji Ohara says much of the tension is about nationalism, with politicians on both sides playing to a domestic audience. He says conflict, while possible, is unlikely.
 
“Because, fundamentally, both Japan and China understood they could not fight each other because of many reasons, military reasons and also the political, economic reasons," Ohara said. "And, the United States, of course, doesn't want to have a military clash in this region. So, the U.S. will stop both sides to fight even [if] the Japan and China recognize they cannot avoid the military clash.”
 
Ohara notes Washington and Beijing are engaged in diplomatic efforts to prevent conflict in the region.
 
The U.S. and Japan say emergency military hotlines are needed with China to prevent escalation from mistakes or miscalculation.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid