BEIJING (AP) — The number of Japanese tourists visiting Beijing fell by more than half in the first seven months of the year amid a spike in tensions between the countries, the city's statistical bureau said Sunday.

Japanese tourist arrivals this year fell to 136,000 up to the end of July, down 53.7 percent from the same period last year, the bureau said.

The drop follows violent anti-Japanese protests in Beijing and several other Chinese cities in September in response to complaints from the government over Japan's move to nationalize uninhabited East China Sea islands claimed by China.

Japanese businesses were torched and Japanese-brand cars, most of which are made by Chinese joint venture firms, were smashed and their drivers assaulted.

There were also scattered reports of assaults on Japanese citizens, although none of the attacks were serious.

Tensions remain high between the sides, with their ships conducting regular patrols in waters surrounding the islands, called the Sunkakus by Japan and Diaoyu by China. Taiwan also claims the islands and has negotiated an agreement with Tokyo to permit fishing in the area.

The decline in Japanese visitors was part of an overall 13.9 percent decline in tourist arrivals blamed on the sluggish global economy, as well as a spike in Beijing's notoriously bad air pollution.

Numbers of tourists from Asian countries fell 25.4 percent, including a 19.9 percent fall in visitors from South Korea. Visitors from the Americas fell by just 3.4 percent.

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