China, Japan premiers meet amid row over islands

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, center, reaches towards Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, right, and China's Premier Wen Jiabao at the start of 13th ASEAN Plus Three Summit on the sidelines of the 17th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Damir Sagolj

The prime ministers of Japan and China met informally at a regional summit on Saturday amid a diplomatic row that has plunged the two countries’ relations to a five-year low.

There had been speculation they would not meet at all because on Friday, China unexpectedly accused Japan of “ruining the atmosphere” for talks and making untrue statements about East China Sea islands both countries claim.

The diplomatic row started after a Chinese fishing trawler and two Japanese patrol boats collided near the islands a month ago and Japan detained the captain, which outraged China. It was hoped the ASEAN summit in Hanoi could provide a venue for the two regional powers to mend fences.

On Saturday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan met on the sidelines of the summit and spoke briefly in a waiting room, said Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of the ASEAN. Mr Kan later confirmed he had met with Mr Wen.

The boat collision and island dispute ratcheted up anti-Japanese tensions in China, prompting protests, cancelled meetings and Chinese restrictions on key metal exports that drew international concern, including from the United States.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 7:50:10 AM |

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