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Japan’s announcement last week of its decision to purchase a group of islands which is also being claimed by China has ignited protests in both countries, but moreso in China, where Japanese factories have been torched, embassies mobbed, and expatriates advised to stay indoors.
The islands, which Japan calls Senkaku, and China Diaoyu, are located some 200 kilometers from Taiwan and 2,000 kilometers from Tokyo, according to Agence France-Presse.
It was reported that the Japanese government would pay 2.05 billion yen or $26.26 million for them. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the purchase from a private owner would allow the country to control the islands “in a peaceful and stable manner.”
Chinese President Hu Jintao, however, said it was “illegal.” The nation has since submitted its claim over the islands to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It also sent six ships to the territory on Friday for “law enforcement.”
On the day after Japan’s announcement of their acquisition, some 50 protesters stormed Japan’s representative office in Taiwan. The latter state also claims the islands.
Small groups of demonstrators also marched to the Japanese embassies in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong on Wednesday. There were reports of Japanese nationals being harassed in China, as well, including an “assault” on a group of customers who were dining in Shanghai.
On Saturday, over a thousand protesters aired their anti-Japanese sentiments outside the consulate in Shanghai. Even more showed up in demonstrations across the country on Sunday, with those in Shenzhen clashing with the police; those in Guangzhou burning Japanese flags; and those in Beijing throwing bottles at the Japanese Embassy as they raised Japanese flags vandalized with obscenities.
Businesses were also victim to anti-Japanese reactions, with shops, restaurants, and especially car dealerships assailed by protesters.
In Qingdao, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. reported arson attacks on its stores. Panasonic Corp. said one of its plants was sabotaged by its Chinese employees, while Canon Inc. was suspending production at some of its factories in light of safety issues.
Also halting work or temporarily closing stores or factories were Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Yamaha Motor Co., and supermarket operator Aeon Co.. Japanese schools in China also canceled classes this week.
Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appealed to China to keep Japanese citizens and businesses secure after protests turned violent.
The Senkaku or Diaoyu islands lie in the middle of the abundant waters of the East China Sea.
Just last month, pro-China activists who sailed into Uotsurijima, one of the islands, were arrested and deported by Japanese authorities.
Days after, Japanese activists and lawmakers bolstered the country’s claim by raising Japanese flags on the same island. Anti-Japanese protests immediately spread across China.
United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned on Sunday that these territorial disputes could end up in war if emotions were not soothed.
View photos of the protests from Reuters below. To see the description, hover over each picture.