Talks with China defense officials mulled

Kyodo

Japan and China are organizing talks involving their senior defense officials, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said Wednesday.

The move indicates efforts are under way to ease tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islets are controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

“We are arranging (the talks). It is true (Japan) is in dialogue with China,” the government’s top spokesman told a news conference. “China remains an important neighbor for Japan.”

Japanese officials said there is a chance that a working-level meeting will be held within the month. Such talks have been stalled since anti-Japanese sentiment flared in China last September when Tokyo effectively nationalized the islet chain, which China calls Diaoyu.

By resuming talks, the countries are seeking to establish emergency communication channels to prevent an accidental clash from occurring around the Senkakus, Japanese defense officials said.

In January, the territorial row escalated when a Chinese warship locked weapon-guidance radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship.

Sino-Japanese relations faced another obstacle this week when over a hundred Japanese lawmakers, including Cabinet ministers, visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which victims of Japan’s war of aggression in the region view as a symbol of its past militarism.

Tokyo hopes the problems surrounding the Shinto visits will not affect Sino-Japanese relations as a whole, Suga said.