It is as embarrassing a diplomatic gaffe as you can make: French President François Hollande was in the same room as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, this morning, when he offered the "Chinese people" condolences for the 10 citizens it lost during the Algerian hostage crisis in January.
"Hollande didn't seem to notice the mistake and didn't correct it, carrying on with his speech regardless. He was saved by the interpreter who was doing the simultaneous translation for journalists and into Abe's earpiece, who instantly corrected the gaffe by referring to the "Japanese." But at least one Japanese journalist who spoke French picked up on the blunder and the French media widely reported it.
" 'He is tired,' was the explanation from Elysée officials to French journalists on the trip."
As the BBC explains, Japan and China are not the greatest of friends and "neither side's nationals like to be confused with the other."
What's more, this was the first French presidential visit to Japan in 17 years.
Update at 9:11 a.m. ET. It Happens:
We point this out, knowing full well that a mistake like this is bound to happen to us someday. You know what they say: "But for the grace of God, go I."
In its story about the incident, The Guardian has a picture of Hollande and Abe. The problem is that Abe is described as the "Chinese prime minister." Oops. Here's a screenshot:
Update at 12:05 p.m. ET. A Joke:
We now notice that The Guardian was joking!