The government is considering sending Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to the Chinese navy’s fleet review in April, as the two countries look to facilitate defense exchanges amid thawing diplomatic ties, a source familiar with the bilateral relationship said Tuesday.
It would be the first visit to China by MSDF ships since December 2011. The fleet review will be held on April 23 off the city of Qingdao, eastern China, to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the country’s navy.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing in October to resume mutual naval visits.
Japan may invite a Chinese warship to the MSDF’s naval review to be held next fall, a Japanese government source said.
MSDF vessels and Chinese warships made mutual visits from 2007 to 2011, but the exchanges came to a halt in 2012 when the Japanese government placed under state control some of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu by China, straining bilateral ties.
The two countries have seen a thawing of relations recently amid China’s trade dispute with the United States. Abe visited Beijing in October in the first official visit to China by a Japanese leader in nearly seven years. During the visit, Xi told Abe that he would “seriously” consider making a trip to Japan next year, in what would be the first visit by a Chinese leader in 11 years.
With tension remaining over the territorial dispute, Japan and China are aiming to prevent accidental military clashes through closer communications.
The defense authorities of the two countries have also started discussions on mutual visits by their defense ministers and other high-ranking officials.
The two countries will hold their first annual talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Beijing based on the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism set up in June.
The Chinese navy’s first international fleet review was held in 2009 to mark its 60th anniversary, in which the Japanese delegation took part without MSDF warships.