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.
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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid