While attending the annual Davos meeting, Prime Minister Abe caught some flak when he responded to a question about the possibility of military conflict between Japan and China when he raised the example of Great Britain and Germany as two nations that went to war with each other despite strong economic ties. He talked about it as an outcome that must be avoided, not to suggest that a similar outcome was possible*, but it was nevertheless, as most reasonable people would agree, an inappropriate example to raise as the sitting prime minister of one of the parties to the greater dispute. But the Philippines’ President Aquino more recently made a more specific reference to Nazi Germany and Hitler in an interview with the NYT.
Now really? Not really. But they do reflect the fact that the Chinese navy and maritime authorities are increasingly better-armed, increasingly aggressive, and have not pulled back on any of the moves that it has made in the disputed areas or on the undisputed open seas, and has refused the Philippines’ offer to settle their dispute in the UN tribunal.
* One journalist did use the incident to suggest more nefarious intentions. Specifically:
Title: “Abe Finds Jarring Parallel for China-Japan”
Lead: “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered an ominous history lesson to crowds at the World Economic Forum in Davos Thursday.
End: “Mr. Abe said last year that historical interpretation should be left up to academics when he found himself in hot water after questioning the definition of the term “invasion” pertaining to Japan’s wartime aggression on the Asian continent. It seems the history buff prime minister is having a hard time taking his own advice.”
From this account, it’s hard to escape the impression that Prime Minister Abe is issuing a veiled threat, a threat of war. But this narrative omits the reason why he made the analogy(in my opinion inappropriately, though surely for different reasons than the journalist wants to suggest), according to FT (A more complete version of the exchanges can be found here):
Naturally enough, Mr. Abe also made it clear that he would regard any “inadvertent” conflict as a disaster – and he repeated his call for the opening of a military-to-military communication channel between China and Japan.
In other words, Abe raised the matter as something that he wanted to avoid, a point that the journalist’s article conspicuously ignores.