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Update: Japan Backtracks From PM’s Tough Talk After China Lashes Out

China lashed out angrily at Japan after Japan’s hotheaded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made incendiary comments about China in an interview with the Washington Post, which was published yesterday.

“It is rare that a country’s leader brazenly distorts facts, attacks its neighbor and instigates antagonism between regional countries,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei. “Such behavior goes against the will of the international community. . . .We have solemnly demanded the Japanese side immediately clarify and explain.”

Japan quickly tried to backtrack from the comments Abe made to the Post. “As I said, as the prime minister said, we value mutually beneficial relations with China based on strategic interests,” declared Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

Abe had told the Post that China has a “deeply ingrained” need to antagonize foreign countries over disputed territory, among other provocative statements. A transcript of the interview is here.

China’s response was, you might say, predictable: Abe’s comments were never likely to be easily swallowed in Beijing. Needless to say—as talk of war swirls ceaselessly on the Chinese airwaves and Washington and Beijing escalate a fight over computer hacking—Abe’s confrontational stance is pushing both all three countries closer to the edge of the cliff.

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