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Abe’s remarks on WWI parallels to be clarified

Kyodo

The government will make clear to other countries what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meant earlier this week when he compared the rocky relations between Japan and China to those of Britain and Germany prior to World War I, officials said Friday.

Kyodo News has learned that supplementary remarks made by the prime minister’s interpreter may have led the foreign media to misconstrue Abe’s point.

The government has repeatedly said that what Abe wanted to convey is that a war between Japan and China is not possible because it would cause devastation not only to the two countries but to the world as a whole.

“We will convey what the prime minister meant through diplomatic channels,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

When meeting with journalists Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Abe was asked whether a war between Japan and China is conceivable, and in response he compared the current tensions between the countries to the rivalry between Britain and Germany in the years before World War I.

Abe called it a “similar situation,” according to the Financial Times and some other media.

By Friday morning, the government had briefed the BBC about Abe’s intention, a Foreign Ministry source said. The British public broadcaster was among the media outlets that were reporting intensely on the prime minister’s comments. Tokyo will also brief Reuters soon, the source said.

Many media reports “left the impression that Abe had not denied (the possibility of) a military clash (between Japan and China) and this caused misapprehension,” a different government source said.

On Thursday, Suga cited Abe as telling the journalists that “such a thing (war) should never be allowed to happen because it could cause costly damage to not only Japan and China but also the world.”

Abe also said, “This year marks 100 years since World War I (started). At the time, Britain and Germany had historic backgrounds to lead to World War I despite their sizable economic relations,” Suga said.

The comparison, Suga said, reflected the fact that China and Japan, the world’s second- and third-largest economies, have strong trade relations, just like Britain and Germany had before the 1914-1918 war.

On Friday, meanwhile, it emerged that Abe’s interpreter added at least one sentence that Abe had not uttered during the session with some foreign and Japanese media in Davos, apparently to supplement his remarks.

Kyodo News confirmed, from a recording by its reporter at the session, that Abe, who was speaking in Japanese, did not describe the Japan-China relationship as being in a “similar situation” to that of Britain and Germany before World War I, as reported by some foreign media. That part was added by the interpreter.

  • Mark Garrett

    Shinzo Abe and George Bush. Brothers from different mothers.