China angrily denounces Japan for Russia-Crimea analogy

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo March 20, 2014, after Japan's parliament enacted a budget for fiscal 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino (Reuters)

BEIJING (Reuters) - China denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday for drawing an analogy between Russia's behaviour in Crimea and China's actions in the disputed East and South China Seas, accusing Abe of hypocrisy. Japan's Kyodo news agency said Abe raised the issue at a G7 meeting in The Hague this month, warning that China was trying to change the status quo through coercion, and said something similar to Russia's seizing of Crimea could happen in Asia. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said those comments were completely out of place, and launched a personal attack on Abe himself, using unusually strong language. "We've long since said that this Japanese leader on the one hand hypocritically proposes improving Sino-Japan ties and on the other says bad things about China wherever he is internationally. These comments again expose his true face," Hong told a daily news briefing. "He tries in vain on the international stage to mislead the public with prevarication and deliberate falsehoods and blacken China's name. But this cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the international community." Hong said it was Japan who had "illegally snatched" uninhabited islands, called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan, at the center of the territorial dispute. China was resolute in its determination to protect its sovereignty in the East and South China Seas, Hong said, adding China wanted these disputes resolved via dialogue. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida echoed Hong in stressing the importance of high-level dialogue, but indicated that the ball was in China's court. "Regrettably, China and South Korea have maintained a stance that Japan's action on individual (bilateral) issues should come first. But it is clear neither of us can readily make a concession on the issues of history and territory," Kishida said. "I'm afraid talks won't ever take place if no talks can be held until these issues are resolved." Tokyo's relations with Seoul are strained by conflicting claims over a separate group of islets. South Korean and Chinese ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what they see as Japan's failure to atone for its wartime aggression. Abe held talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in a U.S.-brokered three-way summit in The Hague this week, but no official bilateral meeting between Abe and Park has been held. Beijing's anger over the past is never far from the surface, and relations have deteriorated sharply over the past two years because of the island dispute. China's claims over islands, reefs and atolls in resource-rich waters off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia have also set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, where Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia have claims too. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo; Editing by Nick Macfie)