Xi hits out at Japan over row as protests ease off

Xi hits out at Japan over row as protests ease off

BEIJING - Reuters
Xi hits out at Japan over row as protests ease off

Paramilitary police arrange the steel fence at the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai. AP photo

Chinese leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping denounced Japan’s decision to buy disputed islands as a farce yesterday and said Tokyo should “rein in its behaviour” as China moved to snuff out anti-Japan protests.

Relations between Asia’s two biggest economies have faltered badly, hitting their lowest point in decades when China marked the highly charged anniversary of Japan’s 1931 occupation of its neighbor.

Tension had run high on land and at sea, with four days of major protests in cities across China and Japanese and Chinese boats stalking each other in waters around a group of East China Sea islands, known by Japan as the Senkaku and by China as the Diaoyu.

Protests in Beijing and elsewhere in China over the row died down yesterday as authorities appeared to be trying to lower the temperature. “Japan should rein in its behaviour and stop any words and acts that undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said in a meeting with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, according to Xinhua news agency.

Xi, whose recent absence from public engagements sparked a series of rumours but was eventually pinned down to a back injury, is tipped to replace Hu Jintao as party chief this year.

Japanese businesses shut hundreds of stores and factories across China, some sending workers back to Japan in fear the protests would get out of hand.