France's Hollande red-faced after calling Japan 'China' during visit

France's Hollande red-faced after calling Japan 'China' during visit

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Frances Hollande red-faced after calling Japan China during visit

France's President Francois Hollande (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a press conference following their meeting at the prime minister?s official residence in Tokyo on June 7, 2013. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND LANGLOIS

France's Francois Hollande was left red-faced in Tokyo on Friday after a slip of the tongue that saw him confuse his Japanese hosts with the Chinese.

During a press conference Hollande, speaking in French, referred to the Algerian hostage crisis in January in which 10 Japanese nationals died, saying he had "expressed the condolences of the French people to the Chinese people." The president, who is in Japan on a three-day state visit, made no attempt to correct his mistake.

A quick-thinking female interpreter fixed the verbal gaffe as she gave her simultaneous translation, rendering the sentence as it had been intended.

However, at least one Japanese journalist with knowledge of French picked up on the error.

Relations between Japan and China are frequently testy, clouded by differences over history and coloured by a territorial dispute.

Polls in both countries show distrust of the other nation is rife and neither side's nationals like to be confused with the other.