China says no plan for Japan meet at Asia-Pacific summit amid islands row

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping has no plans to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during an Asia-Pacific summit this week in Indonesia, Beijing said on Monday, as both sides spar over a group of islets near potentially large oil and gas reserves.

Relations between the world's second- and third-largest economies, long strained by memories of Japan's wartime aggression, have been troubled for the past year due to the row over the tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

While Xi and Abe shook hands and exchanged words earlier in September on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Russia, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said there were no such arrangements at present for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali.

"During the summit there will be many bilateral meetings, which are in the process of being arranged. As for a meeting between the leaders of China and Japan, at present there is no arrangement for this," he told a daily news briefing.

"China has all along been asking Japan to face up to history and to facts, and have dialogue and negotiations with China over the Diaoyu Islands issue. But Japan has yet to give a response to this," Hong added.

"We call on the Japanese leader to stop with the empty talk, and make real efforts to have talks and consultations with China, to overcome the difficulties in the development of bilateral ties."

Abe said on Friday in New York that Japan would make no concessions on sovereignty over the islets, also near rich fishing grounds, but would not make any moves to escalate the situation.

Japan has yet to formally confirm Abe's attendance at APEC, though he is expected to go.

The Japanese government bought three of the disputed islands from a private Japanese owner in September last year, prompting big protests and boycotts of Japanese goods in China.

Tension remains high surrounding the islands, with aircraft and ships from both countries playing cat-and-mouse games near them for months.

The United States, which has a hefty military presence in Japan, including on the southern island of Okinawa, close to the disputed isles, has expressed worry about the dispute and has been keen to see a diplomatic solution.

U.S. President Barack Obama will also be attending the APEC summit.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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