China has proposed to Japan specific measures aimed at building a maritime communication system between defense officials of the two governments to prevent accidental clashes in the East China Sea and other waters, sources with the Japanese and Chinese governments said Saturday.
The measures include holding an annual meeting between the two countries to review events of the past year and setting up a hot line between Japanese and Chinese defense officials, the sources said.
Tokyo, taking Beijing’s move positively, is hoping to accelerate bilateral talks with a view to reaching agreement on the measures by the end of this year. The Chinese navy’s growing outer sea capabilities have led to frequent cases of maritime friction between Japan and China in the East China Sea.
But there are differences to be overcome, such as Tokyo’s call for the hot line to be set up between the defense ministers, whereas Beijing considers such a level too high to respond promptly to emergencies, the sources said.
Difficulties are also expected in bilateral negotiations because China may be attempting through the proposed measures to put the brakes on Japan’s monitoring activities in the waters concerned, according to the sources.
The Chinese government presented the proposals on July 26 in Tokyo during a bilateral joint working group meeting of defense officials held for the first time in more than two years, the sources said.
The proposed measures also include holding a conference to discuss ways to deal with emergency situations and sharing of frequencies and signals used by ships and airplanes in times of emergency, they said.
The two sides have basically agreed on sharing frequencies, and Japan is positively considering the annual meetings as well as the conference, according to the sources. The next working group meeting is scheduled to take place in Beijing, they said.
“We have set up communication systems with the United States and South Korea, although the mechanisms are different. We have no (such arrangement) with Japan only, and there have been problems,” a Chinese diplomatic source said.
While both Japan and China believe it necessary to build a system to prevent a clash between their countries, Tokyo intends to reject any measure that would lead to restrictions on its surveillance and monitoring activities at sea, the sources said.
The joint working group meeting of defense officials was launched in April 2008 based on an agreement a year earlier by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, but it was effectively suspended after the first meeting.
The second meeting was realized on July 26 after the Japanese government urged China to resume the working group talks following an incident in April in which a Chinese navy helicopter buzzed a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the East China Sea.
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