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06 Jan 2014 08:54 GMT | Politics, Asia Pacific, China, Japan, United Kingdom
The diplomatic bickering between Japan and China has descended into name-calling in the British press, with claim and counter-claim by the countries' ambassadors invoking the fictional evil wizard of the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort.
In an opinion piece published in Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper on Monday, Tokyo's envoy to London, Keiichi Hayashi, compared Beijing to the villain of JK Rowling's multi-million selling books.
"East Asia is now at a crossroads. There are two paths open to China," Hayashi wrote.
"One is to seek dialogue, and abide by the rule of law. The other is to play the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions, although Japan will not escalate the situation from its side."
Hayashi's letter was an apparent response to an earlier op-ed - also invoking Voldemort - published by the paper on January 1 by Liu Xiaoming, Chinese ambassador to London.
In the letter, Liu harshly criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent visit to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which honours Japanese war dead, including men convicted of serious war crimes in the wake of Japan's 1945 World War II defeat.
On Monday, Abe said he wanted to explain to leaders in China and South Korea why he visited a controversial shrine.
He expressed his hope that the leaders could meet to diffuse tension over longstanding territorial disputes and historical issues.
The shinto shrine is seen by China and other Asian nations as a symbol of Japan's militarist past.
"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," the Chinese envoy wrote.
In the Harry Potter series, a horcrux is a receptacle in which evil characters store fragments of their souls to enable them to achieve immortality.
Abe's visit to Shinto-style war shrine was the first by a sitting Japanese prime minister in seven years.
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