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

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid