Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya and his Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, have agreed to start full-fledged exchange programs to foster closer relations between their countries’ defense authorities and troops.

At the first Japan-China defense ministerial meeting in three years, held in Singapore on Friday, Iwaya and Wei also reaffirmed a plan to establish a hotline soon.

From now on, the two neighboring Asian countries will promptly work out specific programs for interactions between defense ministers, high-ranking officials and troops as well as for policy dialogue, sources said.

The hotline is to play a central role in the liaison mechanism to prevent a military clash from happening incidentally in the East China Sea. But work to establish it has not progressed much.

The East China Sea is home to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands. The islets are also claimed by Taiwan and China, and Beijing calls them the Diaoyu.

After the meeting with Wei, Iwaya told reporters that it was meaningful to hold the ministerial meeting ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to China set for next week.

During the talks, the Japanese defense chief called on China to refrain from changing the status quo in the South China Sea, according to people who had access to the meeting.

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