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June 24, 2017

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Author Murakami wades into Japan-China territory dispute

TOKYO -- Haruki Murakami, one of the world's foremost novelists, waded into the territorial row between China and Japan on Friday, warning of the peril of politicians offering the "cheap liquor" of nationalism.

His intervention came as Beijing launched a blistering attack on Tokyo at the United Nations, accusing Tokyo of theft, as the dispute over the ownership of a chain of islands intensified.

The Japanese author of "Norwegian Wood" said cool heads should prevail. Writing in the liberal-leaning Asahi Shimbun, Murakami, who has been tipped as a future Nobel laureate, said disputes over land existed because of the unfortunate system of dividing humanity into countries with national borders.

"When a territorial issue ceases to be a practical matter and enters the realm of 'national emotions,' it creates a dangerous situation with no exit.

"It is like cheap liquor. Cheap liquor gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical.

"It makes you speak loudly and act rudely ... But after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.

"We must be careful about politicians and polemicists who lavish us with this cheap liquor and fan this kind of rampage," he wrote.

The author said he was shocked by reports that books by Japanese writers had been removed from Chinese stores because of the dispute.

"One of the main purposes of cultural exchange is to bring about an understanding that we are all human beings who share emotions and inspirations, even if we speak different languages," he wrote.

"That is, so to speak, the path through which souls can come and go beyond national borders."

The author said he dearly hoped there would be no retaliation in kind by Japanese bookshops.

"You soon sober up after the buzz of cheap liquor passes," he said. "But the path for souls to come and go must not be blocked."

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