/

Japan, China defense officials eye maritime hotline

Kyodo

Japanese and Chinese military officials met Friday in Beijing to find ways to prevent an accidental clash and other contingencies in the East China Sea as Beijing tries harder to assert its claim over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, a Japanese defense official said.

Details of the meeting were not immediately known, but a Japanese delegation led by Hideshi Tokuchi, director general of the ministry’s Defense Policy Bureau, is believed to have urged China to build a bilateral maritime communications mechanism for crisis management, at an early date.

It was not known whether Japan raised the radar-lock issue, the incident in which a Chinese warship locked its weapons-guidance radar onto Japanese warship near the Senkakus in January.

Japanese and Chinese defense officials haven’t had any official contact since Japan essentially nationalized the Senkaku chain by buying an additional number of islands from their private Japanese owners in last September.

The group of uninhabited and undeveloped islands are claimed by China and Taiwan, which call them Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.

Earlier Friday, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo the two sides “will exchange opinions on a maritime communications mechanism and the regional situation.”

Onodera said the agenda would include steps to prevent an accidental clash between the Self-Defense Forces and China’s People’s Liberation Army in the East China Sea. He also said the two sides would compare notes on the latest developments in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.