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Japan, China eye early launch of maritime crisis management mechanism

  • 2015-01-14 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: January 14, 2015 – p. 4)


 Japan and China have agreed on an early launch of a maritime and air crisis management mechanism aimed at avoiding unwanted clashes around East China Sea islands, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Tuesday.


 “We have agreed to work toward making the mechanism operational at an early date based on our talks (held on Monday),” Nakatani said at a press conference.


 “At a time when we see an increased risk of unforeseen events in waters and airspace, including in the East China Sea, I’d like to welcome it as a major step,” he said.


 Meeting for the first time since 2012, officials from the ministry, the Maritime Self-Defense Force and China’s Defense Ministry clarified that the mechanism is designed to avoid clashes at sea and in the sky.


 Japanese and Chinese defense officials also discussed establishing a code of conduct to improve the efficacy of the mechanism, with an eye on indicating a tool of communication, a language and procedures in the event of clashes at sea or in the sky.


 Tokyo wants to flesh out the details of a communication tool and a code of conduct and put them into operation by summer. But even if Tokyo and Beijing come to an agreement, operability may be called into question. “For smooth operation, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the Chinese military must undergo communication training,” said a Japanese defense official. In the absence of an environment [for promoting such training], it remains unclear how much the new mechanism could function.


 Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also hailed the outcome of the talks, saying Japan hopes to “build relations of trust and promote mutual understanding” through dialogue at various levels.


 In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told reporters that after “necessary adjustments” the two sides “will work to launch the mechanism at an early date.”


 The working-level talks came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in November to ease tensions over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands — uninhabited islets controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.


 The two countries had agreed to set up a hot line, use a common radio frequency for their ships and planes around the Senkakus, which Beijing calls the Diaoyu, and hold annual meetings.


 Talks had been stalled since the Japanese government purchased some of the islets from a Japanese private owner in 2012.


 Chinese patrol ships have repeatedly been spotted around the Senkakus since then, and fighters jets from both countries have flown unusually close in the East China Sea, raising fears of an accident.


 In 2013, Beijing declared a new air defense identification zone in the East China Sea that overlaps Japan’s. [Translated by Nikkei and MATT/edited by MATT]

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