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Originally published Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 5:56 AM

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China cleans up after angry anti-Japan protests

China was returning to normalcy Wednesday after angry protests over Japan's wartime occupation and Tokyo's recent purchase of islands also claimed by Beijing.

Associated Press

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China was returning to normalcy Wednesday after angry protests over Japan's wartime occupation and Tokyo's recent purchase of islands also claimed by Beijing.

Beijing sanitation workers used high-pressure hoses to erase the stains of paint bombs hurled at the Japanese Embassy the day before. Road blocks were removed, allowing for normal traffic around the embassy, and police shooed pedestrians away.

Some Japanese shops, restaurants and factories in China that closed to avoid being targeted by protesters were open again.

Large and sometimes violent anti-Japan protests roiled many Chinese cities over the weekend, triggered by the Japanese government's decision last week to purchase some of the disputed East China Sea islands from their private owners. More demonstrations followed Tuesday on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China, an emotional remembrance that further stoked the outrage.

In Beijing, the bitterness spilled over to the nearby U.S. Embassy, with around 50 protesters surrounding the car of U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke and trying to block him from entering the compound.

Locke told reporters at a press conference Wednesday that Chinese authorities were "very quick" to move the demonstrators away.

"It was all over in a matter of minutes, and I never felt in any danger," he said.

The U.S., a close ally of Japan, has said it is staying out of the territorial dispute.

The incident comes amid heightened vigilance for American diplomats following violent attacks on U.S. embassies in Libya, Yemen and Egypt. The statement said embassy officials have asked the Chinese government to do everything possible to protect American facilities and personnel.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular press briefing Wednesday that the incident was "an individual case," but that China was investigating it.

Though the demonstrations have wound down, at least temporarily, there has been no progress in resolving the territorial dispute bedeviling relations between the two Asian economic powerhouses.

And the rhetoric on both sides has remained uncompromising.

In Tokyo on Wednesday, former Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said losing a piece of Japan would mean "losing the whole country."

In China, the official newspaper of China's armed forces, the People's Liberation Army Daily, ran an editorial calling it fantasy to think anyone could "plot to occupy one grain of China's sand, or half an inch of its territory."

"Justice is on China's side, people's hearts are on China's side," it said. "The Chinese government will justly and determinedly take measures to respond in kind and resolutely uphold sovereignty over China's territory."

The islands - called the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China - are tiny rock outcroppings that have been a sore point between China and Japan for decades. Japan has claimed the islands since 1895. The U.S. took jurisdiction after World War II and turned them over to Japan in 1972.

Japan considers its bid to purchase some of the islands as a way to thwart a potentially more inflammatory move by the governor of Tokyo, who had wanted not only to buy the islands but develop them. But Beijing sees Japan's purchase as an affront to its claims and its past calls for negotiations.

Beijing has sent patrol ships inside Japanese-claimed waters around the islands, and some state media have urged Chinese to show their patriotism by boycotting Japanese goods and canceling travel to Japan.

The islands are important mainly because of their location near key sea lanes. They are surrounded in the East China Sea by rich fishing grounds and as-yet untapped underwater natural resources.

Chinese state media have also reported that boats were headed to the waters around the disputed islands for seasonal fishing.

Hong, the foreign ministry spokesman, said such activities were within China's rights.

"The Diaoyu Islands have belonged to China since ancient times," he said. "It is totally legitimate and reasonable for Chinese fishing vessels to fish in relevant waters."


Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor in Beijing and Malcolm Foster in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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