SAINT-PETERSBURG: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met briefly with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit on Thursday, a Japanese official said, even though no formal meeting was initially planned amid a bitter dispute between the two Asian powers over outcrops in the East China sea.

“They met before going into the first session of the G20 meeting,” Kotaro Otsuki, spokesman at the Japanese embassy in Moscow, said.

In their first face-to-face encounter since Abe took office in December and Xi in March, the two leaders shook hands and spoke for about five minutes, the spokesman said.

He added that he did not have details on the conversation and could not give an evaluation on the significance of the meeting.

Earlier on Thursday, a Chinese spokesman said that were “no plans” for bilateral talks between the two leaders and that China was not to blame for current ‘difficulties’ between the two east Asian powers.

“There are difficulties between China and Japan relations at the moment. Responsibility does not lie with China,” said Qin Gang, spokesman of the Chinese delegation at the G20.

The two nations are at loggerheads over outcrops controlled by Tokyo, which calls them the Senkaku islands, and claimed by Beijing, which knows them as the Diaoyus. “China’s position on Diaoyu is clear. The islands belong to China,” said Qin.

“The differences in views should be effectively managed through consultations. Unfortunately, China’s reasonable proposals have not been met with proper responses from Japan,” he said.—AFP

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