China and Japan agreed to enhance cooperation in various maritime affairs, including joint rescues, environmental protection and fighting transnational crime, according to a statement published on Dec 6.
The two countries also pledged to strengthen communication and mutual trust between their military authorities, taking another positive step toward building an air and maritime communication system between the two militaries.
These agreements were reached during the eighth round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs between government officials from the two countries. The meeting was held from Dec 5 to 6 in Shanghai.
Officials from China’s Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and Ministry of Environmental Protection, as well as from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cabinet Office and Maritime Safety Agency, attended the meeting.
Both sides emphasized the importance of keeping bilateral communication in maritime policy and law. They will expand cooperation in cracking down on transnational crimes such as smuggling and drug trafficking, the statement said.
Both nations will also increase cooperation in maritime research and rescue, and plan to hold a meeting of experts on marine waste in 2018.
The two countries exchanged their views regarding issues on the East China Sea and agreed to hold the next round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs in Japan in the first half of next year.
Feng Wei, a researcher at the Center for Japanese Studies of Fudan University, said the goal of Sino-Japan maritime relations is to reduce tension in defense and increase cooperation in other maritime affairs.
“Both China and Japan are striving to become maritime powers and have a strong desire to expand their maritime reach,” he said. As a result, dialogues are necessary to reduce miscalculations and friction between the two countries, especially in regard to maritime security and defense, he added.
“Eased relations in maritime security between the two countries can help promote cooperation in other maritime fields,” he said. “Hence it is high time China and Japan establish an air and maritime communication mechanism to enhance dialogue between the militaries and avoid accidents.”
Sun Cheng, a researcher on Japanese foreign relations at the China Institute of International Studies, said maritime security is the core issue plaguing Sino-Japanese relations, and solving it requires a stable and long-term solution, which the security communication system provides.
“China and Japan need to have such a system, or else economic cooperation will have a difficult time moving forward,” he said. Sino-Japanese relations are gaining positive momentum due to a visit from Japan’s largest economic delegation to Beijing in late November, he added.
“The security communication system will be beneficial for both countries,” he said. “But the overall political climate is still not favorable enough, so both sides need to further increase mutual trust.”