China, Japan to hold emergency talks

Foreign ministers to meet as crisis develops in two countries' relations

April 17, 2005|By Michael A. Lev | Michael A. Lev,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

TOKYO - Japan leveled a strong protest against China as it prepared to send its foreign minister to Beijing today for emergency talks, the day after another large anti-Japan demonstration in China left broken glass on the streets of Shanghai.

In what is becoming a crisis in relations between China and Japan, the government in Beijing has taken the highly unusual step of permitting organized street protests against Japan. Police have stood aside as large numbers of protesters gathered the past two weekends to shout slogans and throw rocks at Japanese government offices and businesses in several cities.

Yesterday, an estimated 5,000 Chinese marched in Shanghai as part of anti-Japan campaign focused on China's long-held belief that Japan has never fully acknowledged its responsibility for committing atrocities in China before and during World War II.

Anger erupted after Japan's Education Ministry approved a school textbook that whitewashed the Japanese army's killing of thousands of Chinese civilians. The Chinese also were reacting to other political moves by Japan, including efforts by Tokyo to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

In Shanghai, police allowed protesters to march on the Japanese consulate, where some threw eggs and rocks. A group of young men broke the windows of a Japanese car and flipped it over, and windows were broken at several restaurants.

Japan's Embassy said two Japanese were injured after being surrounded by a group of Chinese, Kyodo News agency reported. Japan's Foreign Ministry denounced the protesters' "destructive and violent actions" and said it had "strongly protested" to the Chinese government.

A government spokeswoman, Jiao Yang, called for calm and asked residents not to participate in unauthorized demonstrations.

There was a smaller protest in Hangzhou, but police prevented demonstrators from gathering in Beijing.

The protesters, including many students, have been using the Internet and text messaging to organize, allowing China's government, as well as Japan, to learn of their plans.

Japan and China are integrated economically but have never embraced each other, mainly because of lingering mistrust in China of Japan's militaristic past.

China's government is always looking for ways to rally the public and uses nationalism to cement its legitimacy, thus giving it an incentive to play up its rivalry with Japan.

In Tokyo yesterday, the Japanese government condemned the protests and suggested Beijing could have stopped the demonstrations if it had wanted to.

Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura was headed to Beijing today for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.

State television in China did not mention the Shanghai protests in its main evening news report, apparently reflecting fears by communist leaders that they could further damage already-sour relations with Tokyo or encourage others to take to the streets against corruption or demand political reforms.

Protesters have recently smashed windows at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and marched in other Chinese cities. The violence prompted several Japanese companies - including Mazda Motor Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Toshiba Corp. - to cancel business trips to China, while others told employees in China to take safety precautions.

Some have suggested that Beijing has permitted recent protests to support a campaign against Tokyo's bid for a permanent Security Council seat.

The five current permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - have veto power over U.N. actions.

Tensions between the two nations also have been heightened by disagreements over gas resources in disputed seas.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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