Chinese and Japanese ships exchanged warnings on Friday near the disputed Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, after China dispatched six ships to carry out patrols near the islands amid rising tensions.
Two fleets of maritime surveillance vessels carried out patrols in territorial waters off the disputed islands on Friday, in an exercise officials said was aimed at “demonstrating China’s jurisdiction… and ensuring the country’s maritime interests”.
The move followed an announcement by Tokyo that it had purchased the islands from a family that it recognises as the owner.
The islands are, however, also claimed by China. The announcement has triggered an angry response from China in recent days.
While State media outlets published a string of commentaries hitting out at Japan, the anger has also spread to the streets of some Chinese cities.
In Beijing, protesters raised slogans outside the Japanese embassy and in front of some restaurants. At least six Japanese were reported to have been attacked.
In Shanghai, one man was injured when hot noodles were poured on him.
The incidents prompted a statement from Japan, calling on China to ensure the safety of its citizens.
Demonstrations are also expected in coming days, in the lead up to September 18, which marks the 81st anniversary of the brutal Japanese occupation of China, a memory that still evokes strong emotions here.
With Chinese Internet users spreading calls for a boycott of Japanese goods, officials have warned of trade ties being hit. China is Japan’s biggest trade partner.
“The move will inevitably have a negative impact on Sino-Japan economic and trade ties,” Vice Commerce Minister Jiang Zengwei was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
Chinese travel agencies have said they have cancelled tours to Japan — a move that is expected to hit the Japanese tourism industry, one-fourth of whose revenues come from Chinese tourists.