China expressed “regret” over an incident in which demonstrators in Beijing caused minor damage to the official vehicle of U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke on Sept. 18, a State Department spokeswoman said.
Locke was unharmed and Chinese police stationed outside of the embassy cleared the demonstrators from the scene after they surrounded the vehicle, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing in Washington yesterday.
The car was a “target of opportunity” for a group of about 50 protesters who were chanting slogans against Japanese control of disputed islands, Nuland said. The U.S. embassy in Beijing is near the Japanese mission, she said.
Hundreds of Chinese demonstrators have protested outside of the Japanese embassy in Beijing since Sept. 15, expressing anger over Japan’s claims to the islands in the East China Sea. Demonstrations against Japan have also taken place in cities across China, including Shanghai, Tianjin and Chengdu. The islands are called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese.
Chinese authorities are investigating the incident and take seriously the protection of diplomats in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told reporters yesterday.
Locke was in the car at the time and the ambassador’s official Cadillac limousine was flying the U.S. flag, a U.S. official said earlier, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment publicly on the matter.