ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — China’s diplomatic assault on Japan’s prime minister moved to another continent Wednesday, as China’s top official at the African Union called the Japanese leader a troublemaker just after his three-country visit to Africa.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Ethiopia over the last week, pledging hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and trying to shore up relations on a continent where China has made deep inroads in recent years.
Abe’s Africa trip follows his visit last month to a World War II shrine in Tokyo that China views as a memorial to war criminals who assaulted the Chinese people.
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Xie Xiayoan, China’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and its envoy to the African Union, said Abe’s visit to the Yasakuni Shrine was offensive and he called the prime minister a “troublemaker” in Asia.
The Chinese disdain for Abe’s visit here went past the political level. On Sunday Chinese activists brawled with Japanese embassy security in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, as they took pictures of the embassy and protested Abe’s visit.
Chinese activists had collected signatures from among the thousands of Chinese nationals living in Ethiopia and tried to submit it to the embassy to protest the shrine visit.
Eyewitnesses in Addis Ababa told The Associated Press that Chinese construction workers erected a sign or banner that said “Sankaku Island belongs to us,” a reference to disputed islands both nations claim. The witnesses, who insisted on anonymity out of fear of reprisals, said the sign was taken down before Abe’s convoy passed by.
Abe on Tuesday told reporters that Japan is in Africa as part of his “strategic diplomacy” program. Abe announced $20 million in funds for the U.N. mission in South Sudan; he also noted that Japan has deployed peacekeepers to support the mission there.