Japan lodges formal protest against Chinese demonstrations

World War II record, bid for U.N. council seat spur violent attacks

April 11, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

TOKYO -- Japan lodged a formal protest against China yesterday after violent anti-Japanese demonstrations in Beijing, even as marches in front of Japanese government offices and businesses widened to southern China.

The Japanese foreign minister, Nobutaka Machimura, summoned the Chinese ambassador, Wang Yi, yesterday morning. Afterward, Wang said the Chinese government condemned the demonstrations on Saturday in which protesters threw rocks at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and vandalized Japanese businesses.

"We formally demanded China's apology and compensation," Machimura said after the meeting.

As the men talked, however, thousands of Chinese demonstrators reportedly marched on the Japanese Consulate in Guangzhou and staged anti-Japanese demonstrations in Shenzhen, both in southern China. The demonstrations over the weekend were described by news media here as the biggest anti-Japanese protests in China since the countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1972.

The marches have set off a steep decline in the already troubled diplomatic relations between Asia's two big powers and threatened to harm their important economic relationship. Japan's relations with South Korea have deteriorated as well, so the dispute with China could leave Japan isolated in Asia.

Its simultaneous disputes with China and South Korea, two countries invaded and occupied by Japan, have been rooted in differences over the past, including the approval last week of Japanese junior high school textbooks that critics in and outside Japan say whitewash Japanese militarism.

But the fight over the past has also crystallized into a fight over the future, as South Korea and China have each made moves to oppose Japan's effort to win a permanent seat on an expanded United Nations Security Council.

South Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Sam-hoon, recently said that "a country that does not have the trust of its neighboring countries because of its lack of reflection on the past" could not play the "role of a world leader."

In China, the marchers were protesting Japan's effort to gain a Security Council seat as well as the textbooks. The books play down the issue of the so-called wartime comfort women, Asian women forced by the Japanese military to work as sex slaves, as well as the issue of Asians brought to Japan to work as forced laborers. The books avoid mentioning any figures for the Nanking massacre in China, in which 100,000 to 300,000 Chinese were killed by Japanese soldiers.

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