September 9, 2012 / 8:14 AM / 7 years ago

Japan, China leaders meet amid tension over islands

TOKYO (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao said on Sunday Japan should not make a “wrong decision” over a territorial dispute when he met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda after weeks of tension between the neighbors, media reported.

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda attends at a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo September 7, 2012. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The two leaders met for 15 minutes on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok.

No talks had been scheduled, given the row over their claims to uninhabited islands known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan, but the Japanese prime minister said on Friday he would not shun a brief exchange.

Noda said Japan hoped to develop a mutually beneficial, strategic relationship with China and that he planned to deal with current relations from a “comprehensive perspective”, Japan’s Jiji news agency reported.

China’s state television broadcaster, CCTV, reported that Hu told Noda a “severe situation” had developed over the islands which are controlled by Japan and owned by a Japanese family.

China is angry about a plan by Noda’s government to buy the islands, which are near potentially significant offshore gas fields. CCTV said Hu had raised objections to the purchase.

“It is illegal and invalid for Japan to buy the island via any means. China firmly opposes it,” CCTV quoted Hu as saying.

“China will unswervingly safeguard its sovereignty. Japan must realize the severity of the situation and not make a wrong decision.”

Relations between the Asian powers have been difficult for years.

Japan’s behavior before and during the World War Two, when it occupied much of China and battled Chinese armies opposed to its rule, has soured relations with China ever since.

Tension over the islands flared last month when Japan detained a group of Chinese activists who landed on them.

That sparked anti-Japanese protests in several Chinese cities and China’s state news agency blamed Japan for pushing tension “to a new high” before Japan released the activists.

Despite such friction, economic ties between Japan and China are deeper than ever and both countries are believed to want to keep the feud from spiraling out of control.

Reporting by Chikafumi Hodo; Additional reporting Langi Chiang in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel

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