President Carter met here today for formal talks with Chinese Premier Hua Guofeng.

Shortly before the meetng, Carter said the two countries could work together to "minimize" dangers of the Soviet military buildup that are visible in the invasion of Afghanistan and in Indochina.

But he quickly added that he did not mean that the increasingly close U.S.-China relationship should be used against the Soviet Union. "We should not combine our efforts against another nation . . .," he said.

His seemingly conflicting comments came in a television interview shortly before Carter began his talks with the Chinese leader.

The meeting was later described as cordial, but no specific agreements were announced. It covered many subjects, including trade, but the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the incursions into Thailand by Soviet-supported Vietnamese forces were apparently the major topics. $ white House Press Secretary Jody Powell told reporters that most of the meeting focused on developments in Southeast Asia and Indochina and that generally the two leaders' views were the same.

Carter and Hua came here for memorial services for Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira yesterday and met this morning in a Tokyo hotel room for an hour and 15 minutes.

They exchanged pleasantries and talked alone through interpreters for about 15 minutes before they were joined by advisers, among them Secretary of State Edmund Muskie and national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Earlier, Carter was asked about the U.S.-China relationship in an interview with Japanese television broadcasters.He said the normalization of relations can help support peace and stability in Asia and then added:

"We also see it as a means by which we can share our long-range strategic concerns to minimize the threat of the Soviet military buildup, which is exemplified most vividly by their unwarranted invasion of Afghanistan and their support of the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea (Cambodia)."

The president did not explain what steps could be taken to minimize the Soviet threat and he hastily went on to explain that he had not meant a combined anti-Soviet undertaking by the United States of China.

"We believe that this new relationship, however, should not be used by either our country of Japan, with China, against the Soviet Union. We should not combine our efforts against another nation but we should combine our efforts to maintain peace and the freedom of each country to make its own decisions free of outside interference and certainly free of invasion," he added.

China is believed to be pressing for a closer military link with the United States and was pleased when some restrictions on American arms sales to the Chinese were dropped recently. But the Carter administration has resisted turning the relationship into anti-Soviet alliance.

Japan, too, would have been embarrassed by any results from today's meeting that would have transformed it into an anti-Soviet forum on Japanese soil. Carter's statement about moving jointly with China to "minimize" threats from the Soviet military buildup was the closest any representative from any of the three countries has come this week to suggesting a joint endeavor against the Soviets.

Powell subsequently sought to clarify Carter's comments by saying the United States and China naturally agree in their opposition to the Afghan and Thai incursions. These are important issues on which China and the U.S. share concerns," he said. But that does not mean their relationship should be directed against another country, he added.

The president "considers our relationship [with China] to be too important to be controlled by the behavior of any other nation," he said.

Powell called the meeting "substantive and most worthwhile" and said the two leaders agreed that the process of normalization was "developing satisfactorily."

He declined to go into detail on subjects discussed, but acknowledged that China's relations with Vietnam, which have veered toward another border war, were on the agenda. He said Carter did not express any opinion on the possibility of another Chinese invasion of Vietnam.

He also said that the question of U.S. military assistance to China was not mentioned in the meeting. Some commercial issues, such as civil aviation, were talked about, he added.

They met in a low-ceilinged room of the Okura Hotel shortly after 8 a.m. Tokyo time and for a few moments reporters could hear an exchange of light chat. "You have a very big country also," Carter was overheard saying to Hua.

According to Powell, Hua remarked that he felt he knew Carter well because he had watched him on television.

Carter left for the United States on Air Force One immediately after the meeting and Hua was to return home this afternoon.

Powell told reporters each leader renewed an invitation for the other to visit his country but no dates were discussed.

Hua and Carter met briefly last night at a reception hosted by Acting Premier Masayoshi Ito where Carter chatted with leaders from Bangladesh, Australia and Thailand. He also shook hands with Zenko Suzuki, who is expected to be chosen as Ohira's successor next week.

Hua spent much of yesterday afternoon in meetings with several foreign leaders and was reported to have pledged again to support Thailand in the event of any new Vietnamese-led incursions across the Thai-Cambodian border.

He was reported by Japanese newspapers to have made the promise forcefully during a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda.

For Carter and the other foreign officials, yesterday was largely one of ceremony. The president arrived shortly after noon with a statement praising Ohira as a close friend who had strengthened the Japanese-U.S. relationship. They had met twice during Ohira's year and a half in office.

Then Carter, Muskie and U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield went to the memorial service for the premier.

During the eulogies, Carter sat a few feet away from Hua.

Tape-recorded excerpts from Ohira's speeches were played and Ito, his close friend and cabinet secretary, delivered the principal eulogy.

Carter later went to the Imperial Palace for a brief meeting with Emperor Hirohito.

Later last night Carter paid his respects to Ohira's widow, Shigeko, at her home.

Carter also met briefly with Ito, whose interim term as acting prime minister will end next week. Ito said later that no political issues were discussed and specifically said the issue of Japan's surging auto exports to the United States was not mentioned.

Those exports are becoming a major political issue in the United States, where more than 200,000 auto workers are unemployed as American car sales sag. But the White House concluded it would be inappropriate to raise that issue during a ceremonial visit.

Powell said Carter's talk with Ito did not embrace any issues. "It focussed on the importance of the American and Japanese relationship and how Ohira had enhanced it," Powell said.

None of the American officials intend to hold talks with either of the two principal South Korean officials here for the funeral, Powell said.

There had been speculation that either Muskie or Brzezinski might take the opportunity to express U.S. distaste for the South Korean military regime's detention of prominent opposition leader Kim Dae Jung, who is to be tried for sedition by a military court soon.

Powell said no such meeting was planned and attributed that to "questions of scheduling" and not any deliberate intent to avoid South Korean Prime Minister Park Choon Hoon and Foreign Minister Park Tong Jin.