Japan and China plan to hold in bilateral security talks in Tokyo as early as April — the first in four years between their foreign and defense ministries, diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.
Japan is expected to use the occasion to relay its plans to enact legislation to put into effect last July’s Cabinet decision to reinterpret the pacifist postwar Constitution to allow the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense.
Japan is also likely to ask China to make its military spending more transparent and explain the reasons behind its military expansion, the sources said.
The talks will likely focus on fostering mutual trust on maritime security, given the continuing tensions over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The last bilateral security talks were held in Beijing in January 2011. Tokyo hopes that this round of dialogue, if successful, could help improve Japan-China ties and lead to more leaders’ summits, the sources said.
According to the sources, Japan and China have been trying to arrange the security talks since Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi agreed last November that they should resume.
The talks will involve top officials from each country’s foreign and defense ministries, including Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama, the sources said.
Japan is likely to defend its decision on collective self-defense as the exercise of a right enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and not a move aimed at China in particular.
Japan will also ask China to make clear its plans to finance aircraft carriers, fighter planes and other military equipment, as well as its activities in space and cyberspace, the sources said.
For its part, China is expected to seek clarity on the guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, which are overdue for revision, and proposed permanent legislation to allowing the Japanese government to dispatch Self-Defense Forces personnel overseas, the sources said.
China is also likely to ask about plans for the Maritime Self-Defense Force to undertake patrol activities in the South China Sea.
In light of tensions over the Senkakus, the talks are aimed at aiding progress in introducing a maritime crisis management mechanism between Japan and China to avoid inadvertent clashes at sea.
The uninhabited islets are claimed by Taiwan and by China, which calls them Diaoyu.
Japan and China have previously held 12 rounds of bilateral security talks, beginning in 1993.