Philippine President Benigno Aquino speaks during a press briefing in 2012.
AFP/Getty Images
Philippine President Benigno Aquino speaks during a press briefing in 2012.

Story highlights

State media calls the Philippine president "ignorant" and "amateurish"

Benigno Aquino compared Beijing's pursuit of disputed territory with the rise of Nazi Germany

Comments echo a similar historical parallel made by Japan's leader

China says it has chosen a path of peaceful development

Hong Kong CNN —  

Chinese state media has called the Philippine president “ignorant” and “amateurish” after he compared Beijing’s pursuit of disputed territory in the South China Sea with the rise of Nazi Germany.

A scathing commentary released by news agency Xinhua Wednesday said Benigno Aquino “had never been a great candidate for a wise statesman in the region.”

The comments came after Aquino called for the world to do more to support the Philippines in resisting China’s claims, drawing a comparison to the West’s failure to support Czechoslovakia against Hitler’s demands for Czech lands in 1938.

“At what point do you say ‘Enough is enough?’ Well the world has to say it – remember that Sudentenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II,” Benigno told the New York Times in an interview.

In the riposte, Xinhua said the “senseless attack” exposed “his true color as an amateurish politician who was ignorant of both history and reality.”

It’s not the first time that an Asian leader has invoked the build-up to a world war to depict tensions over territorial claims in the region.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raised eyebrows when he drew a parallel between the current state of relations between Japan and China and that of Britain and Germany before the start of World War I a century ago.

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Xinhua said that despite the “lame comparisons” made by Japan and the Philippines, China had chosen a path of peaceful development and its territorial claims in the South China Sea have a “sound historical foundation.”

The maritime area is home to messy mix of rival claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing sovereignty of island chains and nearby waters.

The Philippines and China both say that Scarborough Shoal, about 200 kilometers west of the Philippines mainland, is “an integral part” of their territory.

China, Japan and South Korea also dispute sovereignty of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

The areas in dispute include fertile fishing grounds and potentially rich reserves of undersea natural resources.

MORE: Asia’s disputed islands: Who claims what?