BEIJING, April 13 -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday that Japan would not be ready for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council until it admits its history of aggression in World War II and earns the trust of the people of Asia.
Wen's remarks, made during an official visit to India and reported by news agencies there, followed a weekend of anti-Japanese demonstrations in Beijing and other Chinese cities and represent the Chinese government's strongest statement yet in opposition to Japan's bid for a Security Council seat.
A Chinese protester was among many to hurl stones at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing over the weekend. Japan has lodged formal protests with China.
(Reinhard Krause -- Reuters)
"Only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for history and wins over the trust of peoples in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibilities in the international community," Wen told reporters in New Delhi.
Japan has been China's largest trading partner for three of the past four years, and China overtook the United States as Japan's biggest trading partner last year. But political relations between the Asian powers have grown increasingly strained, with the government in Tokyo suspicious of China's growing military and economic clout and leaders in Beijing uneasy about Japan's push to play a larger diplomatic and military role in the world.
As Wen made his comments, another senior Chinese official warned Tokyo not to give Japanese companies rights to drill for natural gas near China's gas projects in contested waters of the East China Sea.
State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said differences over the gas projects were a major irritant in relations between China and Japan, the Reuters news service reported, citing an interview conducted by the Kyodo news agency in Beijing. Tang added that a Japanese decision to allow companies to test-drill in the area would "fundamentally change the issue."
He appeared to be referring to a simmering dispute over a $1 billion gas production project that China is building in waters west of Japan's Okinawa island. Japan has argued that the project will tap into gas deposits that extend into its economic waters and demanded that China share its drilling data or halt the project. China has refused and instead proposed a joint venture.
Members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party have urged their government to retaliate by allowing Japanese firms to drill in the disputed area, arguing that China has already conducted more than a dozen illegal surveys in waters claimed by Japan.
The quarrel reflects an aggressive competition for energy resources between Japan and China, Asia's most powerful and oil-dependent countries, that is intensifying as nationalist sentiment is on the rise in both countries.
Tensions have run high since Tokyo officials last week approved new school textbooks that critics in China, as well as in South Korea and Japan, say gloss over Japanese military atrocities during World War II.
Conservative politicians in Japan contend that China and others are using the past to try to prevent Japan from playing a larger role in world affairs.
Thousands of Chinese demonstrators marched in Beijing and other cities over the weekend to protest the new textbooks and to urge the rejection of a permanent Japanese seat on the Security Council. Crowds threw rocks and broke windows at the Japanese Embassy and Japanese-owned stores.
In Tokyo, Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa expressed concern about the protests' impact on Japanese-owned businesses in China, the Associated Press reported. "I'm worried. I've heard they are aiming to become a market economy, so they must respond appropriately," he told reporters. "It's a scary country."
Japan has lodged formal protests with the Chinese government over the demonstrations, demanding compensation for damages, better security and an apology. But in New Delhi, Wen told reporters that the demonstrations should prompt "deep and profound reflections" in Japan. "The core issue in China-Japan relations is that Japan needs to face up to history squarely," he said.