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CHINA BALKS AT APOLOGY TO JAPAN OVER PROTESTS

Japan's foreign minister traveled to Beijing on Sunday to protest anti-Japanese demonstrations that have sharply raised tensions between the two Asian powerhouses, but China refused to apologize.

"The Chinese government has never done anything that wronged the Japanese people," Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told Nobutaka Machimura, the Japanese official. Li blamed the tension on Japan.

The exchange came as protests gripped China for a third weekend over what China says is Japan's whitewashing of history. Other flash points include Japan's effort to gain a seat on the U.N. Security Council, competition for natural gas resources in the East China Sea and Japan's decision to help Washington defend Taiwan.

On Saturday, as many as 20,000 people marched through China's glittering financial capital of Shanghai. Hundreds of police looked on as the crowd hurled paint balls and tomatoes at the Japanese consulate, shattering windows and attacking Japanese businesses and cars.

Sunday, more protests broke out in cities across the country, including Dongguan, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou in the south; Chengdu in central China; and Shenyang in the northeast. But they were smaller and more peaceful.

Japan denounced the demonstrations and demanded that China protect Japanese citizens and diplomatic agencies.

"I wish the Chinese government would sincerely handle this matter under international regulations," Machimura said.

Chinese officials have denied having anything to do with the protests, which they claim are a spontaneous outburst of outrage.

Japan's demand that China apologize and provide compensation for the damage is unlikely to sit well with the Chinese, who say Japan never has sincerely owned up to the crimes it committed during World War II.

"If Machimura is only here to complain and get even, he's not going to solve anything," said Pang Zhongying, an international affairs expert at Nankai University in Beijing. "He should find out why the Chinese people are angry at Japan and try to increase understanding and dialogue; otherwise, relations between the two countries could only get worse."

Some signs, however, indicate that the Chinese government is trying to lower the temperature.

Security was extra tight in the Chinese capital. Hundreds of paramilitary police guarded the Japanese ambassador's residence.

Rumors had been spreading for days about possible protests Saturday and Sunday, including a march past Tiananmen Square, China's political heart. But none occurred.

University students, who made up the bulk of the Beijing protesters last weekend, were told to stay home and rely on official channels to resolve the standoff.

The People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, published an editorial Sunday stressing the "overriding importance" of maintaining social stability. While making no mention of the anti-Japan protests, its intent was clearly to curb unrest.

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