As many Diplomat contributors have noted, in recent months many have sought to draw comparisons between Asia today and Europe in the run-up to WWI.
Most notably, in a widely covered speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared his country’s current bilateral relationship with China to that of England and Germany before WWI. Specifically, Abe used the example of London and Berlin before WWI to warn that China and Japan’s extensive economic ties do not necessarily preclude them from going to war.
Now it appears that some in Asia believe the current regional environment is more similar to Europe just before WWII. However, there appears to be some disagreement over which country in Asia most resembles Nazi Germany.
For the Philippines, it is China that most resembles Nazi Germany. In an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday, President Benigno S. Aquino III called on the international community to provide his country with more assistance in its ongoing dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea. To bolster his case, Aquino compared the threat the Philippines faces from China today to the one Czechoslovakia faced from Nazi Germany immediately before WWII.
“If we say yes to something we believe is wrong now, what guarantee is there that the wrong will not be further exacerbated down the line?” The New York Times quoted Aquino as saying. “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it — remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”
North Korea disagrees, however, instead asserting that it is Japan who is most like Nazi Germany and Prime Minister Abe that most resembles an Asian Hitler. In an editorial on Tuesday, North Korea’s state media responded to Japan’s recent call for dialogue by writing:
“Their rash acts evoking much criticism in Asia have something in common with the war hysteria whipped up by Hitler in Germany after its defeat in the First World War.
“As well known, the First World War ended with the collapse of militarism in Germany, but fascist maniac Hitler’s assumption to power plunged many nations of the world into the bloodbath of another world war.
“Prompted by the wild ambition for reoccupying former colonies and, furthermore, building up a new vast empire in the world, Hitler had incited ultra-chauvinism and revanchism and restored the economy serving only for war in Germany. Over-heated in reinvasion, Hitler annexed neighboring countries one after another and, after all, unleashed the Second World War.
“Abe’s reckless moves are little different to those of Hitler.”
This follows the People’s Daily editorial team last month responding to PM Abe’s controversial visit to Yasukuni shrine by calling the shrine “a symbol of Asian Nazism/Fascism.” The editorial also spoke of Abe’s “veneration of eastern Nazis,” referring to the Class-A war criminals buried at the Yasukuni shrine.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time Asian nations have played the Nazi game. In 2010 The Diplomat highlighted comments made by then-former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that implied China’s strategic doctrine was similar to the one pursued by Hitler and Nazi Germany.