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Japan, China navy chiefs set to meet for talks

Kyodo

The chief of the Maritime Self-Defense Force is expected to meet China’s top naval officer during a trip to attend an international symposium later this month, a Japanese government source has said.

The meeting of Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, the MSDF’s chief of staff, and Adm. Wu Shengli, commander in chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s naval operations, will mark the first time in almost five years that the two countries’ top naval officers have held talks — the last time being July 2009.

Japan and China have not engaged in any exchanges at the higher-officer level since the Japanese government bought the Senkaku Islands — claimed by China — under direct control by purchasing them from a private Japanese owner in September 2012.

Kawano and Wu may explore ways to build confidence and avoid unforeseen developments amid heightened bilateral tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The source said Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera called on Kawano to arrange a meeting with Wu. It will be held on the sidelines of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qindao, scheduled April 22-24, which will draw top naval officers from more than 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Kawano is visiting China from April 21.

At the symposium, participants are expected to reach an understanding that locking a weapons-targeting radar onto another country’s naval ship or helicopter in peace time is deemed inappropriate, the source said.

In January last year, the Chinese navy locked such radar for several minutes onto a MSDF frigate ship in the East China Sea, a potentially dangerous move that could have triggered a military clash.