Japan, China envoys invoke ‘You Know Who’ in tit-for-tat editorials

by Hiroshi Hiyama

AFP-JIJI

The diplomatic bickering between Japan and China descended into name-calling in the British press Monday, with ambassadorial claims and counter-claims again invoking the fictional evil wizard of the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort.

In an opinion piece published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Tokyo’s envoy to London Keiichi Hayashi compared Beijing to the arch-villain of JK Rowling’s top-selling books and resulting movie franchise.

“East Asia is now at a crossroads. There are two paths open to China,” he wrote.

“One is to seek dialogue, and abide by the rule of law. The other is to play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions, although Japan will not escalate the situation from its side,” he said.

“The answer seems obvious. Although China has so far refused to enable dialogue between our leaders, I sincerely hope that it will come forward, rather than keep invoking the ghost of ‘militarism’ of seven decades ago, which no longer exists,” Hayashi wrote.

Asia’s two biggest economies have long endured a difficult relationship characterized by disagreements on a wide range of issues, many of which are connected to bitter memories of the violence and atrocities waged in Asia by Imperial Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.

But ties descended to new depths after the Japanese government bought a few of the disputed Senkaku Islands it has long administered in the East China Sea from their private Japanese owner in 2012, fueling nationalism in both nations that has seen government ships and planes from both sides crossing paths and shadowing each other regularly around the uninhabited isles.

Hayashi’s letter was an apparent response to an earlier op-ed — also referencing the boy wizard’s nemesis — published in the Daily Telegraph on Jan. 1 by Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to London.

Liu harshly criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Dec. 26 visit to controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, including several men convicted as Class-A war criminals in the wake of Japan’s 1945 World War II defeat.

The Shinto facility is seen by China and other Asian nations as a symbol of Japan’s militarist past after the shrine serving as a spiritual rallying point during the war.

“If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation’s soul,” the Chinese envoy wrote.

In the Harry Potter series, a horcrux is a receptacle in which evil characters store fragments of their souls to enable them to achieve immortality.

Voldemort is only rarely referred to by his name in the books and films, with students and teachers at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry frequently calling him simply “You Know Who” or “He who must not be named.”

Hayashi said Abe’s visit was “by no means to pay homage to war criminals or to praise militarism.”

“It is ironic that a country that has increased its own military spending by more than 10 percent a year for the past 20 years should call a neighbor ‘militarist’,” Hayashi wrote.

“Its attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion has raised concerns not only in Japan, but also among its neighbors throughout the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” he wrote in a reference to China’s vigorous claims to territories disputed by nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

On Monday, Abe defended his shrine pilgrimage and said he would like the opportunity to explain his motivation face to face with Chinese President Xi Jinping, although he conceded: “There is no prospect for summit talks at this point”.

For its part, Beijing accused Abe of double-dealing and leveled the familiar charge that he had “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that, from actions such as his visit to Yasukuni, “it is not hard to see that Abe has continually claimed to attach importance to developing relations but, in reality, these statements are hypocritical.”

  • Olly Denton

    Children, children…patronising little children…

  • Kotahro Fuhraibo

    People’s of Republic of China (PRC) is focusing the Yasukuni visit. But we need to see background of their speaking. Any nation established in the area called as “China” has Expansion Policy for its national security to secure its core part. She needs deep protection zone. This policy is maintained not only PRC, but also other superstates.

    Actually PRC is having the largest territory in history of China and has not been satisfied yet. The World should understand history of Asia and nature of nations at China rather than crying “Pax, Pax!”.

    Now many countries are observing how the World will deal with PRC’s Expansion Policy. South Korea, one of four pieces (North/South/PRC/Russia) separated after WWII, has already been going to obey PRC as only way to survive, even though their peninsula will be conquered by PRC when Japan will lose weight as geopolitical balance of East Asia.