The Defense Ministry said on Jan 29 that China and Japan have agreed to launch a sea and air crisis management mechanism at an early date.
Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said that a consensus had been reached in talks in Tokyo this month, including reaffirming previous agreements on the goals, composition, operation and technical issues involved with the mechanism.
It was also agreed to change the name of the maritime crisis management mechanism to the maritime and aerial crisis management mechanism so as to better conduct consultations on sea and air issues.
“The two sides also agreed that conditions for launching the mechanism are met and agreed to launch it as soon as possible,” said Yang.
Observers said the move shows Beijing’s sincerity in thawing strained relations with Tokyo.
The agreement will help them conduct exchanges and consultations on maritime and aerial issues, Yang said.
Defense authorities in both countries began negotiations in 2012, but talks were suspended after the Japanese government’s “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands in September 2012.
Lu Yaodong, a researcher of Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the consensus marks a step further in implementing the four-point agreement on improving the bilateral relationship.
The countries decided in the agreement reached in November to set up maritime crisis-management mechanisms.
“Once established, it will not only contribute to bilateral relationships but also bring peace and stability to the whole Asia-Pacific region, as concerns are growing over possible clashes in the air or at sea between Beijing and Tokyo,” Lu said. “Now it’s time for Japan to show its sincerity.”
Yang, the spokesman, said that Japan should honor its commitment and take concrete efforts to improve relations, including on defense.
The spokesman also addressed a report that the Pentagon had decided to pause new military exchanges with China.
“The report that you have mentioned sounds very surprising to me,” Yang responded to a journalist.
The Wall Street Journal website on Jan 28 quoted the Pentagon as saying that it wouldn’t agree to a major new military exchange until the countries can agree on rules for airborne encounters between their planes.
The delay, which wouldn’t affect existing military exchanges, reflects concerns among some US politicians and military officials that an expansion of defense ties with Beijing over the past 18 months has not stopped China from trying to enforce its territorial claims with Asia, according to The Wall Street Journal report.