Hu warns Japan not to make 'wrong decision' over islands

TOKYO - Chinese President Hu Jintao said yesterday 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 neighbours, according to media reports here.

The two leaders met for 15 minutes on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Vladivostok, Russia.

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 Mr Noda said last Friday he would not shun a brief exchange.

He 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 TV broadcaster, CCTV, reported that Mr Hu told Mr 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 Mr Noda's government to buy the islands, which are near potentially significant offshore gas fields.

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

"China will unswervingly safeguard its sovereignty. Japan must realise the severity of the situation and not make a wrong decision."

Relations between the Asian powers have been difficult for years.

Tokyo's behaviour before and during World War II, when it occupied much of China, has soured relations with Beijing 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 China and its state news agency blamed Tokyo for pushing tension "to a new high" before Japan released the activists.

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