China aims new salvo at 'Lord Voldemort' Japan

The full interview is available to watch at the bottom of this article

It's not every day the Chinese Ambassador in London agrees to an interview. And diplomats, especially those dispatched by Beijing, make it a rule never to speak off the cuff.

So Liu Xiaoming clearly had something he wanted to get off his chest. And it was anything but diplomatic.

His topic was Japan; more precisely the Japanese Prime Minister's visit last week to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo; from Shinzo Abe's perspective an act of homage to Japan's war dead.

To the Chinese - invaded and occupied by Japan in 1931 - it was, says Mr Liu, a deliberate act of provocation.

It certainly rekindles historic hatreds.

First Mr Liu likened modern Japan to Nazi Germany in the run up to the second world war.

Then, using an analogy guaranteed to win headlines, he compared Japan to Lord Voldemort, fictional force of evil from the Harry Potter franchise.

It is the latest, extraordinary, salvo, in a war or words and gestures between the two regional rivals that some worry might, with one mis-step, turn awfully real.

Japan's nationalistic government views its fast emerging super-power neighbour with alarm. It's talking about re-writing its pacifist post-war constitution in order to more effectively re-arm.

China's Communist rulers also like to use nationalism - and in particular antipathy to Japan, as a ticket to legitimacy.

Add in the dispute over the ownership of a set of uninhabited but potential fossil fuel rich islands and you have the makings a dangerous stand-off.

Since 1945, peace and stability in the region has depended on the United States' guarantees to its allies there.

President Obama's famous "tilt" of foreign policy focus back to Asia is supposed to offer re-assurance to Japan.

Clearly the tilt is now being tested by both Tokyo and Beijing.