Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s opening day speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday scolded China’s military expansion and called for a cool-down between the two Asian powers. Abe’s digs at the larger superpower were indirect, but thinly veiled when considering the recent ongoing territorial dispute between China and Japan over a small chain of islands in the East China Sea.
"If peace and stability were shaken in Asia, the knock-on effect for the entire world would be enormous,” Abe said in his speech. "We must...restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked.”
Throughout the speech, Abe warned the audience of political and economic leaders that history is on track to repeat itself. The Prime Minister has said that China and Japan’s economic ties are “similar” to those of Britain and Germany in the lead-up to World War I, according to the Financial Times. But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gan dismissed this historical allegory, saying "It would be better to face up to what Japan did to China before the war and in recent history than to say stuff about pre-World War One British-German relations.”
China’s and Japan’s list of grievances with the other stretches back centuries, culminating in a Japanese occupation of China in the mid 20th century that was never satisfactory atoned for by the former. And as recently as December, Abe fanned the fires of anti-Japanese sentiment in China by visiting a Japanese war shrine that glorifies militarism.
Despite escalating tensions between these two Asian neighbors, the U.S. still believes that North Korea is the top threat to Asian peace. U.S. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. believes China’s declaration of an “air defense identification zone” over the disputed islands is an “unfortunate imposition” by the Asian giant, but he is more concerned over the less predictable threats from Pyongyang. “I don’t understand them, I don’t understand their leadership and I don’t understand their intent,” Harris said.