Japan's trade minister on Sunday called the anti-Japanese protesters "controlled mobs," as Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura flew to China for talks on the crisis between the two nations.

In response to the latest demonstrations, a middle-aged man threw a glass bottle at the Chinese consulate general in Osaka and set his clothes on fire before dawn Sunday, police said.

"He is seriously injured with burns on the upper body, but he is not in a life-threatening situation," an Osaka police spokesman told reporters.

Blaming the prime minister

Former foreign minister Makiko Tanaka, who served under Koizumi from 2001 to 2002 before being sacked, blamed the prime minister for the anti-Japanese protests by his repeated pilgrimages to a Tokyo war shrine despite protests from China and other neighbouring nations.

Critics questioned Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi's leadership

"At a time when his government is trying hard to win a permanent seat (in the UN Security Council), why does he do things to provoke China, which has a veto?" Tanaka, who enjoys wide popularity, told a television talk show.

Tanaka said Koizumi "lacks wisdom." She is the daughter of late prime minister Kakuei Tanaka, regarded as Japan's most influential politician after the second world war and instrumental in normalising ties with China in 1972.

Koizumi, the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in two decades, has visited Yasukuni Shrine, which honours the nation's war dead including convicted war criminals, every year since taking office in 2001.

The demonstrations broke out this month in China as well as South Korea after Japan approved a textbook which allegedly glosses over atrocities during its occupation. Protesters also objected to Japan's Security Council bid.

Wishy-washy signals

Ichiro Ozawa, deputy head of the main opposition Democratic Party, accused the Koizumi government of setting the stage for the protests by sending wishy-washy signals.

"They have held funerals for me in South Korea and China recently, carrying my coffins and photographs"

Junichiro Koizumi,
Japanese prime minister

Ozawa said Japan should "state its position loud and clear."  

"Britain waged the Opium War with China and made a big fortune by selling opium. Russia did more or less a similar thing to China," Ozawa said in a street speech in the northern city of Sendai on Saturday. "But I have never heard of movements against Britain and Russia."

Koizumi made fun of himself when commenting on some of the more angry protests against him.

"They have held funerals for me in South Korea and China recently, carrying my coffins and photographs," he quipped in a speech in the southern port city of Fukuoka late on Saturday. "We need to think of friendship without inciting confrontation."

Shoichi Nakagawa, the minister of economy, trade and industry, said in a television talk show that demonstrations in China by "controlled mobs must be stopped."

"We have no choice but to wonder if (China) is a law-abiding state," he said. "People around the world are worried if it is alright to conduct economic activities there."