Japan and China have decided to sign an agreement facilitating cooperation in search and rescue operations when accidents take place in waters off the two countries, government sources said Monday.

The accord, expected to be inked later this month when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits China, is aimed at building confidence between the maritime security authorities of the two countries at a time when tensions continue over a small group of islands. Both sides have sought to manage them to improve bilateral ties.

Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that they are "making final arrangements" for the signing.