China’s last-minute rejection of a meeting between Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, has renewed anti-China sentiment among the Japanese government and ruling parties.

Soon after China announced its rejection of Kan-Wen talks Friday evening, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama appeared displeased when he was asked by reporters whether the government would renew its request for a summit meeting.

“Are you asking me if Japan will ask (China) to hold (a meeting)? We have no such a plan,” Fukuyama said.

In Tokyo, Yukio Edano, deputy secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, criticized China. “It’s hard to understand why China rejected a meeting (between Kan and Wen),” he told reporters.

According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, China told Japanese officials Friday evening the meeting could take place at the hotel where Wen was staying, starting at 6:35 p.m.

However, circumstances took a turn for the worse when a foreign news agency reported that the Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers, in talks Friday morning, had agreed to resume talks about joint development of natural gas fields in the East China Sea.

Fukuyama said the report had angered China.

When Japan, China and South Korea held a three-way summit meeting earlier Friday evening in the same hotel, one Japanese Foreign Ministry official told reporters the Japan-China summit meeting would be held soon after. But another ministry official told reporters the meeting would not be held.

China’s sudden change of heart confused Japanese government officials.

Initially, some Japanese government officials believed China was positive about arranging for a bilateral summit meeting to take place in Hanoi.

This belief reflected the fact that China is drawing increasing criticism from the international community over its response to the recent collisions between a Chinese fishing boat and Japan Coast Guard vessels off the Senkaku Islands, as well as the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned Chinese pro-democracy activist.

Thus the Japanese side assumed Beijing wanted to mend ties with Japan.

Some in the Foreign Ministry voiced a hard-line stance, saying it was not necessary to hold a summit meeting with China if Japan had to beg for it.

It appears the administration of President Hu Jintao was concerned that anti-Japan rallies in inland regions had not stopped and Beijing fears the demonstrators might turn their criticism against the government.

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