(Asahi: November 25, 2015 – p. 4)
By Nanae Kurashige
The governments of Japan and China have decided to hold senior working level maritime talks to exchange views on preventing accidental conflict in the East China Sea and other maritime issues in Amoy (Xiamen), Fujian Province from Dec. 7-9. During the meeting, officials are expected to discuss the “maritime and air liaison mechanism” for preventing accidental conflicts, on which negotiations have been deadlocked.
This was revealed by several informed sources. It remains to be seen how much concrete progress can be made on the liaison mechanism. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Premier Li Keqiang agreed earlier this month to start operating this mechanism at an early date.
According to an informed source, the two sides are at odds over Japan’s scrambling of jets in the airspace over the Senkaku Islands based on the Self-Defense Forces Law. This issue is impeding coordination on the start of operation of the mechanism. Officials are also expected to discuss China’s unilateral development of gas fields near the Japan-China median line in the East China Sea.
The talks between working level officials involved with maritime policy from the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, and Japan Coast Guard and from the China Coast Guard, State Oceanic Administration, and other offices were launched in 2012 as a confidence building measure. However, they were suspended due to the deterioration of bilateral relations as a result of Japan’s nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012. Meetings resumed in September last year and the next round will be the fourth.