Japan firms suspend operations in China

Japan firms suspend operations in China

BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
Japanese firms including Panasonic suspended operations at plants in China, companies and reports said yesterday, after mass anti-Tokyo protests at the weekend over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Panasonic said it was halting work at a factory in Qingdao in northeast China “for the time being” after a fire. The electronics giant had also reportedly temporarily suspended two other plants. The camera and printer maker Canon, meanwhile, suspended three of its four main plants to ensure the safety of its employees.

China is Japan’s biggest trading partner and the stoppages came as the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece warned Japan’s economy could suffer for up to 20 years if Beijing chose to impose sanctions over the territorial row.

China and Japan, which generated two-way trade of $345 billion last year, are arguing over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, a long-standing dispute that erupted last week when the Japanese government decided to buy some of them from a private Japanese owner. The islands are called the Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China.

Panetta urges calm

Speaking in Tokyo, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for diplomatic efforts to resolve the worsening spat. “It’s in everybody’s interest for Japan and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to avoid further escalation,” said Panetta. The weekend protests mainly targeted Japanese diplomatic missions but also shops, restaurants and car dealerships in at least five cities. Toyota and Honda said arsonists had badly damaged their stores in the eastern port city of Qingdao at the weekend.

However, Toyota said its factories and offices were operating as normal and that it had not ordered home its Japanese employees in China. Fast Retailing Co, Asia’s largest apparel retailer, said it had closed some of its Uniqlo outlets in China and may close yet more, while Aeon Co Ltd,, Japan’s number two retailer, is prohibiting China business trips for its Japan-based staff.

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.