• Fri
  • Oct 31, 2014
  • Updated: 3:59pm

Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe is president of the Liberal Democratic Party and was elected prime minister of Japan in December 2012. He also served as prime minister in 2006 after being elected by a special session of Japan’s National Diet, but resigned after less than a year.

NewsAsia
JAPAN

Japan PM Abe compares China-Japan rivalry to pre-war UK-Germany ties

Relations between China and Japan are like the rivalry between Britain and Germany before outbreak of conflict in 1914, prime minister says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 12:28am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 January, 2014, 9:15am

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared current tensions between China and Japan to rivalry between Britain and Germany on the eve of the first world war, but his top spokesman yesterday denied the leader meant war between Asia's two big powers was possible.

Sino-Japanese ties, long plagued by what Beijing sees as Japan's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China in the 1930s and 1940s, have worsened due to a territorial row, Tokyo's mistrust of Beijing's military build-up and Abe's visit last month to a shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's wartime past.

Abe, speaking to international journalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said on Wednesday that China and Japan were in a "similar situation" to that of Britain and Germany before the first world war.

[Abe] stated that … military expansion in Asia must be curbed
YOSHIHIDE SUGA, CABINET SECRETARY

Although the rivals then had strong trade ties, that did not prevent the outbreak of war in 1914, Abe said, adding that China's steady increase in military spending was a major source of instability in the region.

He also repeated Japan's call for a military hotline to avert an accidental conflict.

Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, said that Abe had by no means meant that war between the two Asian giants was possible.

"I don't know the specifics of the prime minister's comment," Suga told a regular news conference in Tokyo yesterday. He noted that Abe, in a keynote speech at the forum, said dialogue and the rule of law, not armed forces and threats, were needed for peace and prosperity in Asia.

"He clearly stated that endless military expansion in Asia must be curbed. I believe, in these words, he underscored the importance of peace and stability in Asia," Suga said.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Abe was evading Japan's "history of aggression" by comparing Sino-Japanese relations to those of the UK and Germany prior to the first world war. "There's no need to make an issue of the UK-Germany relationship," Gang said. "Such remarks by Japanese leaders are to evade the history of aggression, to confuse the audience."

In his address at the Davos forum, Abe called for military restraint in the region and took a veiled swipe at China's military build-up.

"We must … restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked," Abe said. "Military budgets should be made completely transparent and there should be public disclosure in a form that can be verified."

He added that disputes should be resolved through dialogue and the rule of law, and not through force and coercion. Abe did not single out China by name.

He also defended his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism because it honours leaders convicted as war criminals along with those killed in battle.

Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Japan, weighed in on the topic of wartime history in an interview published by the Asahi newspaper yesterday.

Kennedy said that the people of the world should cheer on leaders who try to overcome history to build a peaceful future, the newspaper said.

She said Japan had made a constructive contribution to the region and world and by building trust with its neighbours.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

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This article is now closed to comments

ngsw
So Abe has clarified what is in his mind. I feel his dream of going to the war shrine both before and after death.
takeshi.togo.10
We now know that it was the interpreter's own words but not PM Abe's.
impala
Mr Abe doesn't help matters here, not with his Yasukuni Shrine visits and not by making this kind of bold and ominous statements at high-profile events like the WEF. He should take a more constructive stance and strike a more conciliatory tone if Japan ever want to put these issues behind it.

Historically speaking, Mr Abe does however have a modest point. The story of the years preceding the First World War are indeed one of a newly industrialised, newly unified power (Germany) upsetting the balance of (naval) power that was then dominated by the older powers of the UK and Russia. China's rise is currently beginning to upset the Pacific Asia balance, currently dominated by the US and its allies, chief amongst whom is Japan.

China itself has always proposed the idea of a 'peaceful rise' (中國和平崛起). And that is all fine and dandy, but if China wants this rise to be peaceful indeed, it should seek dialogue, not confrontation. Reconciliation should be the goal , not vindication, and cooperative alliances should be built, not seeds of conflict sown.

Also, Mr Abe somehow looks better with glasses.
 
 
 
 
 

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