Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Tuesday that Japan and China will soon launch a maritime and airspace crisis management mechanism to prevent inadvertent clashes in the East China Sea.
“We have agreed to work toward making the mechanism operational at an early date,” Nakatani said at a news conference a day after bilateral talks on the matter.
“At a time when we see an increased risk of unforeseen events in waters and airspace, including in the East China Sea, I’d like to welcome it as a major step,” he said.
Defense authorities from both nations discussed a range of issues, including technical aspects of the crisis mechanism, and shared a common view “to a certain extent,” Defense Ministry officials said.
Officials from the ministry, the Maritime Self-Defense Force and China’s Defense Ministry said the mechanism is designed to avoid clashes at sea and in the sky.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga hailed the outcome of the talks, saying Japan hopes to “build relations of trust and promote mutual understanding” through dialogue.
The working-level talks came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping agreed in November to ease tensions over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.
The two countries have so far agreed to set up a hotline, use a common radio frequency for their ships and planes around the Senkakus and hold annual meetings. Beijing claims the Japan-administered islands and calls them Diaoyu.
The talks on maritime crisis management had been stalled since Japan effectively nationalized the islets in in September 2012.
Chinese patrol ships have repeatedly maneuvered near the uninhabited chain since then, and there have been uncomfortably close encounters between fighter jets from both countries over the East China Sea, raising fears of an accident.
Furthermore, Beijing in 2013 declared a new air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, which overlaps Japan’s.