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Emotional anniversary reignites anti-Japan protests in China

Protesters in China rally in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in response to a territorial dispute with Japan. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

Anti-Japan protests reignited across China on Tuesday, the emotional anniversary marking Tokyo's occupation of its giant neighbor, escalating a dispute over East China Sea islands claimed by both countries.

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said he hopes the dispute can be resolved peacefully, but he added that Beijing reserved the right to take "further action."

Liang held a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who called for "calm and restraint."

But demonstrations were held in dozens of cities on Tuesday, the 81st anniversary of the so-called "Manchurian Incident" that Japan used as a pretext to invade Manchuria before World War II.

Tensions have been growing for months in the dispute over ownership of East China Sea islands called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The disagreement came to a head last week when the Japanese government said it was purchasing some of the islands from their private owner to thwart a Japanese politician's plans to buy and develop them.

Embassy heavily guarded
Outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, thousands shouted patriotic slogans and demanded boycotts of Japanese goods. Some threw apples, water bottles and eggs at the embassy, which was heavily guarded by three layers of paramilitary police and metal barricades.

Similar protests took place in Guangzhou, Wenzhou, Shanghai and other Chinese cities as the country marked the anniversary.

Peter Parks / AFP - Getty Images

Anti-Japan protesters march during a protest over the Diaoyu islands issue, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan, in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Tuesday.

Japan's Kyodo News reported there were protests in at least 100 cities in China. It said about 7,000 people near the Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai chanted "Beat Japanese imperialism," "Boycott Japanese products" and "Destroy Japan and retrieve Okinawa" among other slogans.

Following his meeting with Panetta, Liang said that "we do hope the Japanese government will undo its mistakes and come back to the right track of negotiation," The Wall Street Journal reported.

"We reserve right to take further actions," he added. "That being said, we still hope for a peaceful and negotiated solution for this issue and we hope to work together and work well with the Japanese government in properly handling this dispute."

Andy Wong / AP

A police officer tries to calm anti-Japan protesters in Chengdu in China's Sichuan province on Tuesday as they hold images that they claim show Japanese imperial army soldiers who killed Chinese during World War II.

Much at stake for US as tensions rise in troubled China Seas

Panetta said the United States was "urging calm and restraint by all sides" and was encouraging them "to maintain open channels of communication in order to resolve these disputes diplomatically and peacefully."

In many Chinese provinces, including Liaoning, Gansu, Yunnan, Sichuan and Anhui, local governments sounded sirens at 9:18 a.m. (9:18 p.m. ET Monday) to mark the Sept. 18 anniversary, the official China News Service reported.

David Gray / Reuters

Paramilitary policemen stand -- and sit -- guard behind barriers during a protest on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China, in Beijing on Tuesday.

Many China-based Japanese businesses were shut Tuesday as a precaution, after several days in which anger over the island dispute produced occasional outbreaks of violence, including the torching and looting of Japanese-invested factories and shops.

'Down with little Japan'
China's authoritarian government rarely allows protests, and the wave of anti-Japanese demonstrations clearly received a degree of official approval.

Japanese nationalists land on island claimed by China

In Beijing, streams of people marched past the Japanese Embassy in orderly groups of about 150 people, herded by police who urged them to remain calm and peaceful. Some toted posters of Chairman Mao Zedong, and many shouted slogans such as: "United, Love China, Never forget our national shame."

Sun Chao, a 26-year-old employee for a Beijing tutoring company, said he was given the day off and came to demonstrate with about a dozen other friends and colleagues. He spent around 150 yuan (U.S. $24) on apples and bottled water that he was handing out to others on the demonstration route and encouraging people to hurl them at the embassy.

"I want to knock down the Japanese national flag," Sun said.

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Wang Guoming, a 38-year-old retired soldier and seller of construction materials, said he came to Beijing from his hometown of Linfen in Shanxi province to vent his frustration.

"I came here so our islands will not be invaded by Japan," said Wang. "We believe we need to declare war on them because the Japanese devils are too evil. Down with little Japan!" 

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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