China’s foreign ministry has criticised remarks by a senior board member of Japanese state broadcaster NHK, who denied that Japan’s troops carried out a massacre in China’s wartime capital of Nanjing.
At the same time, state media was highly critical of Philippine president Benigno Aquino for comparing Beijing's claims in the disputed South China Sea to demands for land made by Nazi Germany over the Sudetenland in the former Czechoslovakia.
China is at odds with most of its neighbours over various maritime claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
It disputes ownership of part of the South China Sea with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Probably the most tense standoff right now is over an archipelago of uninhabited but resource-rich islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, which are controlled by Japan. This has led to a rapid deterioration of relations with Japan. While China has strong trade links with Japan, relations have been complicated by what China sees as Japan’s failure to atone for its occupation of parts of the country between 1931 and 1945.
China consistently reminds its people of Japan's historical brutality, such as the Nanjing massacre in which China says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people. A postwar Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, but conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny the massacre ever took place.
Naoki Hyakuta, a member of NHK's board of governors who is also a novelist and commentator, was quoted in Japanese media saying the incident, known as "The Rape of Nanking", did not happen.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said the comments were “a barefaced challenge to the international justice and human conscience”.
“The Nanjing massacre is a brutal crime committed by the Japanese militarism during their invasion of China, which has irrefutable evidences. The international community already had a verdict about it,” Mr Hong said.
Tensions have ratcheted up further after China imposed an air defence identification zone over the East China Sea, which most countries have largely ignored, and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine honouring war criminals among the fallen.
The state news agency Xinhua described Mr Aquino as a “disgrace” for his comments warning the world not to appease China like Europe appeased Nazi Germany in 1938 over the Sudetenland.
"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 II," Mr Aquino told the New York Times.