China, Japan discuss island dispute at APEC meeting

In this image made from video Chinese President Hu Jintao, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speak on the final day of the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012.

The leaders of China and Japan have met for the first time since the recent escalation of a dispute between their two nations about a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had an informal 15-minute conversation on Sunday on the sidelines of a regional summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

Chinese state media quote Hu as saying that Tokyo must recognize what he called the “severity” of the dispute over the Japanese-controlled islets and avoid making “wrong decisions.” The islets are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China and claimed by both nations.

Prime Minister Noda’s government angered China in July when it announced plans to buy some of the islands from a private Japanese family and place them under state control. Hu told Noda that Beijing opposes any such move as “illegal and invalid.”

Japanese media say Noda called for both nations to resolve the dispute by developing their relations in a comprehensive, mutually beneficial and strategic way as they mark the 40th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties.

Tensions flared up last month when Japanese and Chinese nationalists sailed to the islands and swam ashore to assert their countries’ claims, prompting the two governments to accuse each other of provocation.

The waters surrounding the archipelago contain rich fishing grounds and potential oil reserves.

The Japanese leader also expressed sympathies to Hu regarding the deadly earthquake that hit southern China’s Yunnan province on Friday.

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