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Aquino repeats 'Nazi' remark vs China

TOKYO, Japan – Repeating a comment that is expected to again anger Beijing, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III drew a parallel Wednesday, June 3, between present-day China and Nazi Germany during a speech in Japan. 

Aquino also hinted that the world cannot continue to appease Beijing as it claims even more territory in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The comments come as disquiet grows over the quickening pace of China's land reclamation program in international waters, including its construction of a runway long enough for large military planes.

"If there was a vacuum, if the United States, which is the superpower, says 'We are not interested,' perhaps there is no brake to ambitions of other countries," Aquino told an audience of business leaders in Tokyo when asked about China's rising might, and the role of the US in checking it.

"I'm an amateur student of history and I'm reminded of...how Germany was testing the waters and what the response was by various other European powers," he said, referring to the Nazis' territorial conquests in the months before the outbreak of World War II.

"They tested the waters and they were ready to back down if for instance in that aspect, France said (to back down).

"But unfortunately, up to the annexation of the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, the annexation of the entire country of Czechoslovakia, nobody said stop. 

"If somebody said stop to (Adolf) Hitler at that point in time, or to Germany at that time, would we have avoided World War II?"

Aquino made similar comments about China in an interview with the New York Times published in February 2014. 

'Fomenting tension'

Responding to Aquino's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said comparing China's actions to those of Hitler was "inconceivable and unreasonable." (READ: Chinese insults show Philippines is right: Aquino

In another speech before the National Diet of Japan on Wednesday, Aquino referred to "a country that we both have had difficulties with" – apparently referring to China, which is also at odds with Japan over a territorial dispute.

Aquino said: "Perhaps I may share with you a question that I posed to a country that we both have had difficulties with: If all governments are there to serve the people from whom they derive their power, is it not incumbent upon all to maintain stability, which is a necessary prerequisite for prosperity? How does fomenting tension help us achieve the primary goal of bettering the lives of our people?"

Aquino's comments come after US President Barack Obama on Monday, June 1, weighed in on the growing tensions in the South China Sea, urging regional powers – particularly China – to respect the law and stop "throwing elbows."

China has rejected US demands to stop all reclamation works in the South China Sea, saying it was exercising its sovereignty and using the outposts to fulfil international responsibilities.

Beijing insists it owns nearly all of the South China Sea, a major global shipping route believed to be home to oil and gas reserves, but rival claimants accuse it of expansionism. 

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have varied claims over islets and reefs in the area.

Washington and its Asian allies, including Tokyo, which has a separate territorial dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea, has warned that ignoring international laws could threaten "the freedom of navigation." – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com