Tokyo will ask Beijing to pay for damage caused to its diplomatic missions during sometimes violent anti-Japanese protests over disputed islands, the government said on Thursday.
The announcement came as authorities in China appeared to be tamping down public anger, banning demonstrations even as leaders kept up the rhetoric.
“Regarding damage to our embassies and consulates, we plan to demand compensation [from China] as it is an issue between the governments,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters in Tokyo.
Fujimura said any damage to property owned by Japanese businesses in China should be handled there under domestic law.
But in a conciliatory note, Fujimura said Tokyo would reach out to China.
“The prime minister is considering sending a special envoy as part of our government’s efforts in seeking to resolve the issue cool-headedly through various diplomatic routes,” he said.
“But at this point, no specifics such as who would be appointed or how we would send the person is decided yet,” he added.
Tens of thousands of anti-Japanese demonstrators have rallied across China since late last week, with some vandalising Japanese shops and factories, forcing firms to shut or scale back production.
Protests reached a peak on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 1931 Mukden Incident, when Japanese Imperial troops staged an attack on a Japanese-owned railway as a pretext for invasion and occupation of present-day northeast China.
The protests all but disappeared on Wednesday, with the Japanese embassy saying demonstrators had been told not to return.
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said on Thursday they had been orchestrated by officials.
The row centres on the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by Beijing under the name Diaoyu.
Japan’s coastguard said on Thursday it was monitoring 10 Chinese ships – four marine surveillance ships and six fisheries patrol boats – in waters near to the chain. There had been 14 in the area on Wednesday.
Asia’s two largest economies have wrangled about the islands since the 1970s, but the row flared in August after pro-China activists landed on one of them.
Tensions escalated dramatically after the Japanese government bought three of them from their private owners.