China (search) on Tuesday cited its anger over a Tokyo war shrine when explaining why it abruptly pulled out of talks with Japan's (search) prime minister, while Japanese officials demanded an apology for the snub, in a new surge in tensions between the two Asian heavyweights.

The flap over Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi's (search) canceled meeting with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (search) in Tokyo on Monday sparked the most heated exchange in weeks between the two neighbors as they seek to ratchet down rancor that unleashed violent anti-Japanese protests in China last month.

The Chinese government said it was upset over remarks Japanese leaders made during Wu's eight-day trip about visits to the Yakusuni Shrine, which critics say glorifies Japan's militarist past. China's state-run Xinhua news agency criticized Koizumi for what it said was his remark that he didn't see why he should stop visiting the shrine.

"We are very dissatisfied that Japanese leaders have made repeated remarks that are negative for the development of better relations during Madame Wu's visit to Japan, which have deprived such meetings of necessary conditions and atmosphere," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.

Japanese officials on Tuesday denounced the abrupt cancellation, with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura complaining to reporters in Tokyo that "there was no word of apology."

"In terms of manners, it lacked common sense," Japan's Internal Affairs Minister Taro Aso said.

Wu's was the first high-level Chinese visit to Japan in more than a year, part of efforts to smooth over relations in the wake of last month's riots in China over Japan's World War II aggression, and Beijing's resistance to Tokyo's bid for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat.

Underscoring those disputes is the two powers' long-standing rivalry for economic and political dominance in Asia.

Beijing has long been angered by Koizumi's annual pilgrimages to a Tokyo war shrine, saying they ignore Chinese sensitivities and pay homage to Japan's militarist past.