(Reuters) – Chinese state media has slammed Philippine President Benigno Aquino III over remarks that compared Beijing’s claims in the disputed South China Sea to demands for land made by Nazi Germany to the former Czechoslovakia.
In an interview with The New York Times published on Tuesday, Aquino called for more global support for the Philippines over the territorial issue, comparing it to the failure by the West to support Czechoslovakia against Adolf Hitler’s demand in 1938.
“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 paper quoted him 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 Two.”
China’s official Xinhua news agency blasted Aquino’s comments late on Wednesday, saying Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea have a “sound historical foundation” and that it also seeks to resolve the issue through dialogue rather than confrontation.
“His latest reported attack against China, in which he senselessly compared his northern neighbor to the Nazi Germany, exposed his true color as an amateurish politician who was ignorant both of history and reality,” it said in an English-language commentary.
“He also joined the ranks of disgraced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who created great controversy after comparing Japan-China relations to those between the United Kingdom and Germany in the run-up to the First World War last month at the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland,” Xinhua said.
Such commentaries, while not official statements, can be read as a reflection of Chinese government thinking. China’s Foreign Ministry has yet to comment on Aquino’s remarks.
On Thursday, a spokesman for Aquino stood by the comments.
“The lesson for all free countries is this: there is a need for all to stand up for what is right,” spokesman Herminio Coloma Jnr. said.
“It should be right is might and not might is right.”
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have territorial claims across a waterway that provides 10 percent of the global fisheries catch and carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel said on Wednesday Washington has growing concerns that China’s maritime claims in the disputed sea are an effort to gain creeping control of oceans in the Asia-Pacific region.
China reacted angrily last week to a report in a Japanese newspaper that Beijing was considering setting up a new air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, similar to the one it announced last year for the East China Sea.
The United States urged China not to set up such a zone, although China’s Foreign Ministry implied it had no need to do so because it did not see a military threat from Southeast Asia.
Xinhua, in a separate commentary, said it was Japan that was the real regional threat, not China.
“It is high time for the Obama administration to see through Abe’s political tricks and to cage the trigger-happy elements in Japan,” Xinhua said.