Fri, Apr 15, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Japan puts blame for violent riots at Beijing's door

AFP , TOKYO

Japan's foreign minister said yesterday he would demand China end what Tokyo believes is official backing for mass anti-Japanese protests, as Chinese activists urged even bigger rallies this weekend.

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura is due in Beijing on Sunday as tensions steadily grow worse between the neighbors, with Japan approving a nationalist history textbook and oil and gas exploration in contested fields.

Japan has demanded an apology and compensation over last weekend's violence, when thousands of protesters marched to the Japanese embassy and pelted it with bottles and cans in Beijing's biggest demonstration in years.

"The demonstrators were shouting, `There is no guilt in patriotism.' The Chinese foreign ministry saying that it [the protest] is tolerable and natural means the government approved it," Machimura told a parliamentary committee.

"I will tell them that frankly" in the Beijing talks, he said.

The rallies were called to protest the textbook that China says whitewashes Japan's atrocities in Asia as Japan seeks a prestigious permanent seat on the UN Security Council, whose current set-up dates from World War II.

China, the only Asian permanent member, reiterated yesterday it did not feel Japan deserved a seat if the Security Council is expanded for the first time since the 1945.

But Beijing said it backed the three countries in a joint bid with Japan: Brazil, Germany and also India, with which China has been repairing ties after decades of unease.

"Only when a country respects history and is able to win trust from its neighboring countries can it be able to play a greater role in international affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told journalists.

Chinese protesters say that Japan has also not atoned for its crimes during the 1931-1945 occupation of China, such as the orgy of rape, murder and destruction by Japanese soldiers in the 1937 massacre of Nanjing.

Senior Chinese lawmaker Lu Yongxiang on a visit to Tokyo reiterated Beijing's position that the protests were "naturally emerging reactions from a certain group of the people" but predicted calm would return.

"We are trying to prevent it from escalating and it will recede," Lu said.

But Beijing has accused Tokyo of "provocation" for Wednesday agreeing to let its companies drill for oil and gas in fields contested with China in the East China Sea.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called for dialogue over the oil and gas issue between the two nations, whose huge economies are both heavily dependent on energy imports.

"China and Japan have different stances but we need to continue dialogue and by taking a broad view and not fanning confrontation, we will make the area a sea of cooperation," he said.

But, in remarks in a weekly newsletter, Koizumi said China must "clearly recognize" its duty to protect Japanese residents.

"The Chinese side has responsibility for ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals who are in China," Koizumi said.

Large parts of the row have been played out over the Internet, with Japan's police and defense agencies saying they had been barraged by irrelevant data after a reported call by a Chinese Web site to jam Japanese servers.

In popular Chinese instant messaging forums, netizens are spreading the word about the times and locations of planned demonstrations in major cities including Beijing, the southern city of Guangzhou, Shenyang in the northeast and Chengdu in the southwest.

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