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Japan: China is 'scary country'

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NEW DELHI, India -- China's premier has told Japan to "face up to history," while a top Japanese official has called China "scary" as a war of words simmers following massive protests in the weekend.

The missives on Tuesday came after tens of thousands of Chinese took to the streets on Saturday and Sunday, angry at a new Japanese history book they say fails to admit the extent of Japan's World War II atrocities.

The protests -- which were the largest since 1999 when crowds rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing when three Chinese were killed in Belgrade -- also targeted Japan's bid to become a permanent U.N. Security Council member.

In the latest flare-up between the two former rivals, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday that Japan must "face up to history squarely" and that the protests should give Tokyo reason to rethink its bid for a permanent council seat.

"The strong responses from the Asian people should make the Japanese government have deep and profound reflections," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

"Only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for past history and wins over the trust of the people in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibility in the international community," he added.

The comments were the most direct to date of opposition to Japanese membership in the elite club of five powers with permanent Security Council status. China already is a member, along with the United States, Russia, Britain and France.

On Tuesday Japanese Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said he was concerned about the impact of the Chinese sentiment on Japanese companies, one day after Junichiro Koizumi called the protests "regrettable" and urged the Chinese to protect the nation's citizens.

"Yes, I'm worried ... they're a country that's trying to become a market economy and we need them to take a proper response," Nakagawa told a news conference.

"It's a scary country."

Japan's leaders have so far apologized to China on no fewer than 17 occasions since the two nations restored diplomatic ties in 1972, according to The Economist Global Agenda.

But the scandal over textbooks has only exacerbated ill-will, with recent clashes over disputed islands in the East China Sea, the incursion of a Chinese submarine into Japanese waters and exploration of natural gas fields beneath the seabed, adding fuel to the fire.

'Open provocation'

Of 1,000 Chinese in major cities surveyed in a telephone poll by the independent Social Survey Institute of China, nearly all said the textbook move was an insult, with most saying it was "open provocation," Reuters reported.

Protests are rare in China, with the government keeping a tight rein on any public gatherings and banning most demonstrations.

But while China's government has urged protesters to remain calm, and avoid extremist behavior, it has been tolerant of these anti-Japanese demonstrations, urging Tokyo to take a "responsible attitude" towards history.

The protests saw tens of thousands of protesters call for a boycott of Japanese products, burning flags and shouting anti-Japanese slogans.

Tokyo has demanded an apology and compensation from Beijing for the damage caused by protesters, and demanded that Chinese authorities protect Japanese in China.

The tensions can be traced back to Japan's military campaigns in the last century. Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, and occupied various parts of China until 1945.

In particular, Chinese say Tokyo plays down 1937's "Nanjing massacre." When that city fell to the Japanese Imperial Army, tens of thousands of civilians and prisoners of war were killed.

There is also much resentment of Japan's WWII practice of forcing women from China and other parts of Asia to become sex slaves for its soldiers.

Several appeals by those women for compensation have been rejected by Tokyo's high court.

CNN correspondent Tara Duffy contributed to this report.

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