China Denies Japan's Request for Apology

Published April 17, 2005

| Associated Press

China on Sunday rebuffed Tokyo's demands for an apology after sometimes violent anti-Japanese demonstrations, while new protests took place in several cities over perceived efforts by Japan to gloss over its wartime history and to gain a permanent U.N. Security Council (search) seat.

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing instead pointed a finger at Tokyo for the heightened tensions, which have been fueled by anger over Japan's wartime aggression and anxieties about Tokyo's military and diplomatic ambitions.

"The Chinese government (search) has never done anything that wronged the Japanese people," Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told his visiting Japanese counterpart.

Li said Japan (search), instead, was to blame for "a series of things that have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" over issues such as relations with rival Taiwan and "the subject of history" — a reference to new Japanese history textbooks that critics say minimize Tokyo's World War II-era atrocities.

Many Chinese believe Japan has never truly shown remorse for its prewar invasion of China.

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura appealed to Li to protect his country's diplomats and citizens. Tokyo denounced Saturday's violence in Shanghai, where police stood by as 20,000 rioters — some shouting "Kill the Japanese!" — threw stones, eggs and plastic bottles and broke windows at the Japanese Consulate and damaged restaurants and cars.

"I wish the Chinese government would sincerely handle this matter under international regulations," Machimura said, apparently referring to treaties obligating Beijing to protect diplomatic missions.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK quoted Machimura as saying Sunday in Tokyo that he would warn Beijing that relations, "including on the economic front, could decline to a serious state."

Relations between the Asian powerhouses also have soured amid disagreements over Taiwan, Japan's bid to join China as a permanent member of the powerful Security Council and gas resources in disputed seas.

Earlier this year, Japan and the United States appealed in a joint statement for a peaceful resolution of Taiwan's future status. Tokyo had sought to avoid direct involvement in the dispute over the self-ruled territory, which split from the communist mainland in 1949.

China's legislature last month passed a law authorizing the use of force if Taiwan moves toward formal independence.

In the southern cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, thousands of protesters called for a boycott of Japanese goods, a Japanese diplomat said. Smaller, peaceful rallies were held in nearby Dongguan and Zhuhai and in Chengdu in the west.

In Shenyang in the northeast, about 1,000 protesters marched to the Japanese Consulate but were kept away by police. The crowd threw stones but did not break windows, said consulate official Shoji Dai. The protest ended in about 90 minutes, he said.

In Shenzhen, two groups — one with up to 10,000 people — marched past a Japanese-owned Jusco department store calling for a boycott of Japanese goods, said Chiharu Tsuruoka, Japan's vice consul general in Guangzhou.

Another 500 protesters were outside another Jusco branch in Guangzhou, Tsuruoka said.

Earlier Sunday, police tried to block a planned protest in Guangzhou, shooing people away from a stadium where a march was to start. Police stood guard outside Japan's Guangzhou Consulate.

Some have suggested that the Chinese government, which wields tight control over its population, permitted earlier protests to undermine Tokyo's Security Council campaign. Beijing regards Tokyo as a rival for regional dominance and is unlikely to want to give up its status as the only Asian government with a permanent seat and veto power on the Security Council.

But Beijing last week called for calm, apparently afraid of causing more damage to relations with Tokyo or encouraging others to take to the streets to demonstrate against corruption or demand political reforms.

The Communist Party newspaper People's Daily called in a front-page editorial Sunday for the public to "maintain social stability."

It did not mention the protests but said "frictions and problems of various kinds ... can only be settled in an orderly manner by abiding by the law and with a sober mind."

Japan's Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa warned the violence would hurt China's reputation and economy. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce says Japan has $47.9 billion invested in China.

"People around the world are wondering whether it's all right to pursue economic activity (in China)," Nakagawa was quoted as saying by Japan's Kyodo News agency.

On Sunday, the Japanese consulate in Shanghai, China's commercial capital, was ringed by hundreds of police, some armed with shields, but there was no sign of new protests. The consulate's walls were splattered blue and black from paint bombs.

Last week, protesters also smashed windows at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

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