Japan ex-PM Fukuda meets China's Xi amid tensions
Former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda (centre L) gives an interview to Japanese media as he attends the Boao Forum for Asia in Boao on the southern Chinese resort island of Hainan on April 7, 2013.
Fukuda is serving as chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, touted as an Asian version of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The annual Boao meeting is held on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
Fukuda told reporters that he and other forum executives attended a meeting with Xi that lasted about 20 minutes during which discussions were focused largely on conference issues.
"It's not the kind of place to talk just about Japan and Japan-China relations," Fukuda said.
Still it marked a rare chance for a high-level meeting as Sino-Japanese ties remain strained since a long-simmering territorial dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea intensified last year.
Japan administers the unoccupied islands, which it calls Senkaku. China, which also claims them, refers to them as Diaoyu. The waters around the islands are considered potentially rich in natural resources.
Fukuda, the son of a former prime minister, served in the post for a year from September 2007 and has been an influential figure on the Japanese political scene.
Tensions spiked last September after the Japanese government purchased islets in the chain it did not already own, sparking violent demonstrations in Chinese cities.
Fukuda praised a speech Xi made to forum participants after their meeting in which China's new leader called for settling disputes through dialogue.
Fukuda said what was needed now was for the two sides to step up diplomatic efforts.
"And I think it's a matter of how to increase trust between leaders," he said.
Asked if his attendance at the forum could contribute to such diplomatic efforts at improving relations, Fukuda said that it was hard to know.
"But in general I feel that both sides are of the mind that something needs to be done," he added.
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