National / Politics

Japan, China start talks to prevent accidental clashes in East China Sea, disputed isles

Kyodo

Japan and China on Thursday started a two-day senior official consultation in Fukuoka on maritime affairs, where they are expected to discuss ways to avoid unintended clashes in the East China Sea.

The focus of the gathering — the seventh such consultation — is on whether the two countries can pave the way for an early implementation of a “Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism,” which is effectively a hotline between defense officials aimed at preventing accidental clashes in the sea, where China disputes Japan’s sovereignty over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands.

The two nations have failed to progress in their talks on the matter so far, due in part to Tokyo placing the islets under state control in 2012. The decision drew sharp opposition from Beijing, which refers to them as Diaoyu.

In recent years, Chinese vessels have entered Japan’s territorial waters near the islets.

Ahead of an anticipated meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany on July 7-8, Tokyo wishes to ease tensions in the East China Sea, a foreign ministry official said.

In the latest talks, senior officials from foreign ministries, defense ministries and coast guard organizations in the two countries are also set to exchange views on joint development project of gas fields in the sea.

On Friday, they are scheduled to visit Hakata port in Fukuoka Prefecture.

The last consultation was held in Haikou, capital of China’s Hainan Province, in December 2016.

Tokyo and Beijing held their first high-level talks on maritime affairs in May 2012 in China. Dialogue had been suspended amid the territorial row, but restarted in September 2014.

The negotiations have taken place semiannually, alternating between locations in Japan and China.

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