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China, Japan leaders meet amid tensions

TOKYO/VLADIVOSTOK -- 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.

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 II, 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.

Territorial rows in the Asia-Pacific threaten the global economy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Sunday at the end of a leaders' summit plagued by divisions.

“Now is the time for everyone to make efforts to reduce the tension and strengthen the diplomatic involvement,” Clinton, who was filling in for U.S. President Barack Obama, told reporters as she prepared to leave Vladivostok.

“This region of the world is the economic engine in what is still a fragile global economy.

“It's not in the interest of the Asian countries, it's certainly not in the interest of the United States or the rest of the world, to raise doubts and uncertainties about the stability and peace in the region.”

Clinton urged Seoul and Tokyo to “lower the temperature” over sparsely populated islands known by Koreans as Dokdo and by Japanese as Takeshima, but controlled by South Korea and where Lee made an unprecedented visit last month.

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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. (AP)

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