In a bizarre diplomatic move, China's ambassador to Britain has likened Japan to the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort. The invocation is the latest escalation of a tense standoff between the two countries over the Japanese prime minister’s recent visit to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo.
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming referred to the JK Rowling character in an article for the Telegraph newspaper in which he criticised Tokyo of fuelling tensions between the two states.
Xiaoming wrote: “In the Harry Potter story, the dark wizard Voldemort dies because the seven horcruxes, which contain parts of his soul, have been destroyed. If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul.”
Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni last week, a shrine that honours those killed in the Second World War, including several indicted war criminals.
Abe said the purpose of his visit was to “determine that never again will people suffer in war”, yet the shrine remains controversial, particularly among other Asian countries, which have criticised it as memorial to the Japanese militarism that inflicted such devastation during the first half of the 20th century.
So controversial is the shrine that Abe’s visit even provoked condemnation from Washington, one of Tokyo’s closest allies.
In the Telegraph piece, Xiaoming calls Japan a "serious threat to global peace" and says that Tokyo is putting the world on a "perilous path" by rekindling its militarism, a move that China "will not allow".
"Visits to the shrine by Japanese leaders cannot simply be an internal affair for Japan, or a personal matter for any Japanese official. Nor does it concern only China-Japan and Korea-Japan relations," he wrote.
"Deep down, paying this kind of homage reveals whether Japan is trustworthy. It raises serious questions about attitudes in Japan and its record of militarism, aggression and colonial rule."
According to the China Daily newspaper, China’s foreign ministry has lodged concern over the visit with several states, including South Korea, Russia and Vietnam.
Citing Britain's wartime pact with China, Xiaoming wrote: “China and Britain were wartime allies. Our troops fought shoulder to shoulder against Japanese aggressors and made enormous sacrifices.
“Sixty-eight years have passed since that horrible war. Yet there are always some incorrigible people in Japan who show no signs of remorse for war crimes. Instead, they seek to reinterpret history. They pose a serious threat to global peace. The Chinese will not allow such attempts. I am sure British and all other peace-loving folk will not remain indifferent."