China has refused to apologise to Tokyo as tens of thousands of demonstrators hit the streets in the latest anti-Japanese protests across the nation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing delivered the blunt message on Sunday to his Japanese counterpart Nobutaka Machimura, who had flown in for what were expected to be difficult talks with ties at their lowest point in decades.
"The Chinese government has never done anything for which it has to apologise to the Japanese people," Li told his Japanese guest.
"The main problem now is the Japanese government has done a series of things that have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, on the Taiwan issue, some international issues including human rights and especially in its treatment of history," Li said.
It was Beijing's first response to demands for an apology over the protests against Tokyo's approval of a nationalist Japanese school textbook which glosses over wartime atrocities and its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
Li insisted China handle three consecutive weekends of protests properly and urged Japan to recognise the root of the problem - its wartime past.
"The Chinese government in dealing with any matters [does] so in accordance with the law," Li said.
"The main problem now is the Japanese government has done a series of things that have hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, on the Taiwan issue, some international issues including human rights and especially in its treatment of history"
Chinese Foreign Minister
"At the same time, it feels that one should seek truth from facts to become clear on the root of the matter and cannot turn things upside down."
China made no immediate offer of compensation for Japanese property that had been damaged in three weekends of riots on the mainland, said Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima.
"This kind of situation does not help in any way to improve relations between the two countries," the spokesman said.
However, when Japan suggested a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi during an upcoming regional meeting in Indonesia, China replied it would consider it, he said.
More than 30,000 protesters thronged the southern boom city of Shenzhen on Sunday, hurling water bottles at billboards for Japanese products and burning an image of Koizumi.
"We aren't going to stop these protests," Stephen Ma, a 25-year-old electronics engineer, said, explaining calls for a boycott of Japanese goods. "The country is more important than money."
About 5000 people held a peaceful protest march in neighbouring Hong Kong, chanting Chinese revolutionary songs and slogans such as: "Japan face up to your crimes."
More than 1000 protested outside the Japanese consulate in the northeastern industrial city of Shenyang, where a line of riot police could not prevent stone-throwing and other acts of vandalism.
Smaller protests were held in the southern cities of Nanning, Zhuhai and Dongguan as well as the central city of Changsha.
They followed a violent protest on Saturday by up to 20,000 people in the eastern financial centre of Shanghai, where crowds pelted the Japanese consulate with rocks, bottles and eggs, smashed two Japanese cars and ransacked a Japanese restaurant.
About 2000 employees at a Japanese factory in the southern province of Guangdong also turned demands for better working conditions into an anti-Japan demonstration on Saturday, a Japanese diplomat said.
China made no offer of
compensation for damage
Analysts say the protests have been tacitly approved by China to put pressure against approval for Japan's UN bid.
While the government has deployed large numbers of riot police to prevent violence getting out of hand, police did not stop stone-throwing and the vandalism of Japanese cars and shops.
In the politically sensitive capital Beijing, however, police warnings against any new protests caused plans for a demonstration to fizzle, following a large-scale demonstration last weekend in which the Japanese embassy and ambassador's residence were attacked.
Li and Machimura were not seen shaking hands on Sunday, but both nonetheless expressed hopes of resolving the dispute.
"I hope this meeting can provide a chance to improve our current Japan-China relations and I have come here with that strong hope," Machimura said.
Li said he wanted to "thoroughly exchange views" to find a way to solve the problem.
Speaking to Aljazeera from Beijing, editor-in-chief of al-Alam newspaper Mach Yaw Leen said political tensions between the two countries cannot be defused quickly given that the core issue has not been solved yet.
"Tokyo has to take tangible, genuine steps to resolve the problem," he said, adding that some observers feel Japan is seeking to inflame Chinese sentiments as well as threaten the country's stability and security.
However, he said he did not believe economic relations between the two countries would be affected by the latest developments.