Protests against Japan have continued in Chinese cities for a second day, prompting Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s prime minister, to call on China to protect his country’s companies and diplomatic buildings from fresh assaults.
During the biggest flare-up in protests over East China Sea islands claimed by China and Japan, police fired tear gas and used water cannon on Sunday to repel thousands of protesters occupying a street in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong.
The protests erupted in Beijing and other cities on Saturday, when demonstrators besieged the Japanese embassy, hurling rocks, eggs and bottles, and testing cordons of anti-riot police.
Thousands of people continued protesting in Beijing on Sunday. Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from Hong Kong, said that Chinese protesters are attacking anything with links to Japan. “Now it is spreading to more and more Chinese cities,” she said.
In at least four other Chinese cities, demonstrators looted shops and attacked Japanese cars. Protesters also broke into a dozen Japanese-run factories in the eastern city of Qingdao,according to the Japanese broadcaster NHK.
“Regrettably, this is a problem concerning the safety of Japanese nationals and Japan-affiliated companies,” Noda told a talk show on NHK. “I would like to urge the Chinese government to protect their safety.”
In a further assertion of its sovereignty, China has been holding military drills near the disputed islands.
Chinese state television has showed footage of navel ships, submarines and aircraft conducting operations with live rounds on Saturday and Sunday.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warned Sunday that territorial disputes involving China and other countries in Asia could end up in war if they are not toned down.
“I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgement on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict,” he said.
“And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding,” he said, when asked about a worsening clash between China and Japan over an archipelago they both claim.
Speaking to reporters before arriving in Tokyo on the first stage of a trip to Asia, Panetta appealed for restraint amid mounting tensions over territorial rights in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.