National / Politics

Japan, China hold first security talks in four years

Reuters, Kyodo

Japan and China held their first security talks in four years on Thursday, with both sides stressing the importance of candid dialogue in a step aimed at thawing ties plagued by the legacy of Japan’s wartime aggression and the Senkaku Islands dispute.

Their deputy foreign ministers met Thursday in Tokyo for a day of talks.

“Ties between Japan and China have been making a gradual advance since last year’s summit meeting, but there still are concerns over each other’s security policy,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama.

“The best way to dissolve the concerns is to hold direct dialogue,” he added.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao said China placed great importance on dialogue and consultation.

“I hope both sides will exchange views positively, aggressively and in a practical manner through this dialogue and achieve such targets as setting aside minor differences for the common good, fostering trust and promoting cooperation,” he said through an interpreter.

During the talks, the two sides agreed to speed up efforts to establish a communication mechanism between the two countries’ defense authorities to avoid unintended and accidental clashes at sea and in the air, a Japanese official said.

At issue is a territorial row over Senkakus, a group of Japanese-administered, Chinese-claimed islets in the East China Sea. Relations between the world’s second- and third-largest economies have chilled over the uninhabited islets.

Patrol ships and fighter jets from both countries have shadowed each other regularly near the Senkakus, prompting fears that an accidental collision could spark a conflict.

During Thursday’s talks, the two countries shared the view that it is desirable that they hold such talks “once a year” as part of efforts to ease tensions, the official said.

But the two sides did not discuss specifics such as when to launch the envisaged mechanism, the official said, requesting anonymity.

Regarding China’s military buildup, Japan urged Beijing to boost transparency in its defense policy including the double-digit annual growth in the defense budget for a quarter of a century, except in 2010, the official said.

Earlier this month, Beijing unveiled a 10.1 percent jump in its defense outlays for this year.

Abe held formal talks with President Xi Jinping last November. In the meeting, hailed by Xi as the first step toward improved ties, the two agreed to work for the implementation of a bilateral crisis management mechanism.

Xi and Abe, in their talks last year, agreed to aim for implementation of a plan for a hotline between defense officials as well as communication between vessels and aircraft to convey each other’s intentions and avoid clashes.