09/06/2013, 00.00
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G20, unexpected meeting between Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping

At the edge of the first session of the summit in St. Petersburg, the leaders of China and Japan spoke for 5 minutes. Both want "peace" and "a bilateral relationship with mutual benefit," but do not address the sensitive issues that divide them, first of all the property question about the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

St. Petersburg (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Chinese and Japanese leaders have shaken hands and spoken to each other in an unexpected meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit. China's Xi Jinping and Japan's Shinzo Abe have not met since they took power in March 2013 and December 2012 respectively. Ties between the two sides have been severely strained by a territorial dispute. Both sides claim islands in the East China Sea.

The islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan. Tokyo bought three of the five islands from private owners in September 2011, a move that angered Beijing, which responded with a campaign to assert its political and military sovereignty over the area. Taiwan is also involved in the dispute. Taipei has proposed to develop the area jointly without focusing on ownership.

The value of the archipelago is not clear. Some consider it strategically important given its location in one of the busiest shipping lanes. Others believe that in addition to rich fishing grounds, the seafloor around the islands hold vast gas reserves. In 2008, in a gesture of détente, Beijing and Tokyo signed an agreement for joint development and research on the islands, which, however, was never implemented. The two leaders met for between four and five minutes just before the main G20 leaders' session began at the summit in St Petersburg on Thursday, Japanese officials said.

Mr Abe told Mr Xi "about our thoughts that we should develop Japan-China relations by going back to the original point of the strategic, mutually beneficial relationship", Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said. According to state-run Xinhua news agency, Mr Xi said China-Japan ties were "facing grave difficulties" which "we are unwilling to see".

China favoured mutual beneficial ties, Xinhua quoted Mr Xi as saying, but Japan had to address the territorial row and historical issues "in line with the spirit of facing history squarely and looking forward to the future". China accuses Japan of failing to address adequately issues related to its war-time conduct.


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Senkaku / Diaoyu, Shinzo Abe "ready to use force"
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