Tokyo has chided a private interpretation firm over an employee’s translation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s remarks last month comparing Sino-Japanese relations with those in pre-World War I Europe.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that Abe’s comments last month during a meeting with international press at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, were embellished, the Asahi Shimbun and the Sankei Shimbun reported over the weekend.
The Asahi said that the ministry had cautioned the firm and the translator.
A ministry official told reporters that the ministry has given the firm a performance review, but declined to give details.
Abe was quoted by major media as drawing a parallel between current Japan-China relations and those of Britain and Germany on the eve of World War I, saying they were in a “similar situation.”
A transcript of the remarks does not contain this phrase.
According to an Agence France-Presse translation of the remarks provided by Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Abe made the comments in response to a question about the possibility of conflict between Japan and China.
He replied: “This year marks the 100th year since World War I. At the time, Britain and Germany had a strong economic relationship, but they went to war. I mention this historical background by way of additional comment.”
“If something like you suggest were to happen, it would cause serious losses to both Japan and China, but also cause significant damage to the world. We must ensure this will not happen,” Abe said, according to the translation.
The reported remarks were criticized as “inflammatory” by commentators and seized on by China as “anachronistic.”
Japan and China are at loggerheads over the sovereignty of disputed islands in the East China Sea, with paramilitary confrontations common as naval vessels and planes lurk in the background.
Bitter memories of the violence visited on swathes of Asia by Japanese soldiers in the years before and during World War II also continue to fuel bilateral tensions.