Anti-Japan protests across China have escalated further today, with police using tear gas and water canons to disperse large groups of protesters, some of whom are calling for war with Japan. Protests have been held across China since the Japanese government’s decision to buy the disputed islands in the east China sea, which are are claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan, from their private Japanese owners. But far from running out of steam, the protests seem to be growing in size, and the protesters demands growing ever more extreme. Many protesters have been seen holding placards or chanting slogans which call for the Chinese government to go to war with Japan to regain control of the islands (see video below). This may be partly down to the fact that the Chinese government has done little to quell the protests, and for many Chinese citizens this may be their first opportunity to attend a legal protest over a popular issue.
Reuters reports that protests have sprung up in at least 72 Chinese cities, and that police have used pepper spray, tear gas and water canons to disperse protesters in Southern China. Protesters have been looting and attacking Chinese businesses, destroying Japanese cars and in some cases clashing with police.
“Regrettably, this is a problem concerning the safety of Japanese nationals and Japan-affiliated companies,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told a talk show on NHK. “I would like to urge the Chinese government to protect their safety.”
The United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who arrived in Tokyo today to begin a trip around Asia, has called for restraint and warned of the potential for the island dispute to escalate into a war between China and Japan
“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 misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict,” Mr Panetta said “And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding.”