The Korea Herald


Japanese firms halt China operations after protests

By 윤민식

Published : Sept. 18, 2012 - 09:15

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Anti-Japan protesters stand on a Japanese flag in Shanghai, China, Sunday. (AP-Yonhap News) Anti-Japan protesters stand on a Japanese flag in Shanghai, China, Sunday. (AP-Yonhap News)

Major Japanese firms including Canon and Honda suspended operations at several plants in China, officials and reports said Monday, on the eve of an expected fresh wave of anti-Japan demonstrations.

Beijing and Tokyo, the world's second and third-largest economies, are at loggerheads over disputed islands, prompting US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to express Washington's concern over the demonstrations and the conflict.

After meetings in Tokyo with senior Japanese officials, Panetta -- who later travelled on to Beijing -- urged "calm and restraint on all sides", a day after warning "misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence".

Panetta, in a three-day visit to China, was due to deliver his appeal to the country's top civilian and military figures, including the Chinese leader-in-waiting, Vice President Xi Jinping.

Widespread anti-Japanese protests, some of them violent, have been held across China in recent days over the East China Sea islands known as Diaoyu by Beijing and Senkaku by Tokyo. They are claimed by both but controlled by Japan.

A new bout of demonstrations is expected on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 1931 "Mukden incident" that led to Japan's invasion of Manchuria, which is commemorated every year in China.

China and Japan have close trade and business ties, with numerous Japanese companies investing in their larger neighbor and two-way trade totaling $342.9 billion last year, according to Chinese figures.

But the two countries' political relationship is often tense due to the territorial dispute and Chinese resentment over past conflicts and atrocities.

Camera and computer printer maker Canon said it had suspended operations at three plants in southern and eastern China for Monday and Tuesday "to ensure the safety of all of our employees working there".

Panasonic said it was halting work at a factory in Qingdao in northeast China "for the time being" after a fire.

Honda Motor and Mazda Motor both announced a halt to operations at their auto assembly plants in China, the Kyodo News agency said.

Honda will suspend operations at its five vehicle assembly plants on Tuesday and Wednesday, company officials were quoting as saying, saying the move was aimed at adjusting shipments.

Mazda plans to close its vehicle assembly plant in Nanjing until Friday, Mazda officials said.

China is Japan's biggest trading partner and the stoppages came as the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece warned Japan's economy could suffer for up to 20 years if Beijing chose to impose sanctions over the territorial row.

A financial spat between the countries could cast a pall over growth on the continent, which the West is counting on to drive recovery from the global slowdown.

The row over the islands intensified last week when the Japanese government bought three of them, effectively nationalizing them, and China responded by sending patrol ships to nearby waters.

According to the Kyodo news agency, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday told national broadcaster NHK: "We need to take a cool-headed approach to avoid negative impacts on overall (relations).

"Japan will try (to exercise restraint), and we need to strongly call on China for restraint."

The US has a mutual defense treaty with Japan and Panetta told reporters earlier in the day in Tokyo that Washington's commitment to the arrangement was unwavering.

"Obviously we stand by our treaty obligations. They are longstanding, and that does not change," he said.

But he added that the United States as a matter of policy does not take a position on the territorial dispute.

"It's in everybody's interest for Japan and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to avoid further escalation," he said, pounding a podium for emphasis.

In Beijing, about 100 protesters in two groups gathered at the Japanese embassy amid heavy security, marching back and forth past the building and occasionally throwing water bottles at it, while a helicopter buzzed overhead.

The embassy urged its citizens to take safety precautions including not going out alone and not speaking loudly in Japanese, consular official Keiji Kamei told AFP.

A commentary in the People's Daily newspaper on the possibility of economic sanctions said: "Amidst a struggle that touches on territorial sovereignty, if Japan continues its provocations China will inevitably take on the fight."

Shares of Chinese companies with business ties to Japanese firms fell in trading in Shanghai as investors sold on worries that the territorial dispute could hurt demand for their products. (AFP)

<관련 한글 기사>

폭발하는 반일 감정, 日기업들 ‘올스톱’

일본 기업들이 반일 시위를 피해 중국 내 매장 영업과 공장 가동을 일시 중지하고 있다.

유니클로는 오는 18일 중국 매장 19곳의 문을 닫는다고 17일 밝혔다. 이는 전날보다 12곳 늘어난 수치다.

매장 한 곳은 열겠지만 평소 폐점시간인 오후 9시보다 일찍 문을 닫을 계획이다.

마쓰다 자동차는 난징(南京) 공장 가동을 18일부터 4일간 멈출 계획이다.

세븐&아이 홀딩스는 이토 요카도 슈퍼마켓 13곳과 세븐일레븐 편의점 198곳의 영업을 중지할 예정이다.

소니사는 직원들에게 꼭 필요한 경우가 아니면 중국 출장을 가지 않도록 했다.

소니의 중국 사무실은 18일 정상 운영되겠지만 소매 매장과 공장에 대해서는 조치를 취할지 검토 중이다.

혼다는 18일 중국 광저우(廣州)시와 우한(武漢)시 내 자동차 공장 가동을 이틀간 중단한다.

한편 이날 광저우시에서는 반일 시위 중 가게를 약탈하고 물건을 훼손한 혐의로 11명이 체포됐다.

7명은 16일 시위 중 일본 브랜드 자동차를 망가뜨린 혐의로 구금됐고 3명은 가게 유리 벽을 깬 혐의, 나머지 1명은 광고판을 망가뜨린 혐의로 잡혔다.