But China's UN Ambassador, Wang Guangya, on Monday was careful not to voice firm opinions on Japan, a prime candidate for a permanent seat on the elite council, which sets security policy for all 191 UN members. 

However, a campaign in China - which the government has made no move to stop - has gathered more than 20 million signatures against Japan's membership.

On Sunday, demonstraters smashed a local Japanese supermarket's windows after a demonstration in China against Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council turned violent, Kyodo news agency reported Sunday. 

And protesters in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in southwest China broke the windows of Japanese-owned supermarket Ito-Yokado on Saturday, Kyodo said.

More time

Guangya urged that the expansion be decided on "consensus", rather than a vote among the 191 General Assembly members. Consensus is a near impossibility after a decade of debate.
   
"I believe that consensus is still possible," Wang, who holds the rotating council presidency for April, told a news conference. 

"Now there are major differences," he said. "Therefore I believe that if we do not set a timetable, we do not impose any time frame, then we are giving member states a bit more time and I believe that we can come up with some broad agreement." 

The Chinese strongly oppose 
Japan's inclusion in the body

Not pushing for a vote in the General Assembly is tantamount to delaying the entire decision, perhaps forever, diplomats said.
   
Annan has urged member states to decide this year on how the Security Council should be expanded, preferably by a summit planned for September.

He warned that members should not use the lack of consensus as "an excuse for postponing action".
   
A high-level UN panel in November proposed two plans to enlarge the council, now skewed toward the industrial world.

The five permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - reflect the balance of power at the end of World War II, 60 years ago.
  
Among the five, the United States has also been relatively silent, while France, Britain and Russia have supported Germany, Brazil, India and Japan for permanent membership. 

Twin plans
   
These four candidates have joined forces in favor of "Plan A", which creates six new permanent members, plus three new nonpermanent members for a total of 24 seats. Two of the permanent seats would go to African nations. 

"Therefore I believe that if we do not set a timetable, we do not impose any time frame, then we are giving member states a bit more time and I believe that we can come up with some broad agreement"

Wang Guangya
China's UN ambassador

The second proposal, "Plan B", calls for eight seats in a new class of members, which would serve for four years, subject to renewal, plus one nonpermanent seat, also for a total of 24.

This plan is supported by at least 20 medium-sized countries,
including Korea, Mexico, Italy and Pakistan.
  
Germany, Brazil, India and Japan want to call a vote in the 191-member General Assembly on 'Plan A" - without saying who should have what seat.
   
Then the four countries would seek council seats for themselves in another assembly vote, after which a final proposal would go to the Security Council, where the permanent five members have veto power.
   
Neither of new plans would add new veto powers.
   
Diplomats believe China or the United States would have difficulty casting a veto over a plan already passed by the General Assembly, hence some envoys believe Beijing and Washington prefer no action.
   
Relations between China and Japan have deteriorated over several issues in recent years, and many Chinese harbor deep resentment of what they see as Tokyo's failure to own up to atrocities against Chinese by Japanese troops from 1931 to
1945.