French President Francois Hollande has made an embarrassing slip of the tongue, speaking in French at a news conference in Tokyo.
Referring to the Algerian hostage crisis in January, in which 10 Japanese people were killed, he said he had expressed “the condolences of the French people to the Chinese people”.
He did not correct his mistake.
Relations between Japan and China are often frosty, coloured by history and by more recent territorial disputes.
Polls in both countries suggest a mutual distrust and neither side’s nationals like to be confused with the other.
An interpreter did make a correction, in her simultaneous translation.
But at least one Japanese journalist picked up on the error.
President Hollande is on a three-day state visit to Japan, the first by a French president in 17 years.