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China apparently imposed the ban in retaliation for Tokyo’s recent decision to nationalize three of the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing says belong to China.

Facing international criticism and possible sanctions from world sporting authorities, Chinese officials recently rushed to the public stage to explain the ban.

Through state-run media, the Beijing Marathon organizing committee issued a statement after Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported the story. The statement said the reason for barring Japanese runners was “safety concerns” for them. It did not elaborate.

The official Chinese explanation failed to convince most Japanese.

The Beijing Marathon banned Japanese sponsors as well, the first time such a ban has been applied in the marathon’s history. Up to now, Japanese corporations, including All Nippon Airways and Canon, were major sponsors of the event.

Despite violent attacks on all things Japanese and Japanese-speaking people in China after the outbreak of bilateral tensions over the disputed islands several months ago, Japanese athletes also took part unmolested in other high-profile events.

On Nov. 3, Japanese figure skaters Mao Asada beat Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia and Finland’s Kiira Korpi to win the Cup of China. Ms. Asada’s compatriot, Tatsuki Machida, won the men’s singles in Shanghai at the same event — all without any incidents.

• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at