China sounded out Japan in September about sending Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe to Japan to hold talks with his counterpart Nobuo Kishi the following month, Japanese government sources said Friday.
But Tokyo and Beijing failed to set a schedule, and are now preparing a phone conversation between the two ministers for as early as this month, the sources said, adding the two nations are certain to arrange Wei’s visit to Japan later.
By realizing a bilateral defense ministerial meeting, China is apparently aiming to deepen relations with Japan, one of the closest U.S. allies, as Beijing has been at odds with Washington over several security matters including Taiwan and the South China Sea.
If Wei visits Japan, it would be the first time since September 2009 for a Chinese defense minister to set foot in the neighboring country. The last time defense chiefs of the two nations met was December 2019, when then Defense Minister Taro Kono visited Beijing.
Japan and China have agreed to arrange Wei’s visit to Japan by the end of this year.
If Wei holds talks with Kishi, the two ministers are likely to exchange views on a dispute over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing claims and calls Diaoyu.
China has been trying to change the status quo by sending its vessels to Japanese territorial waters around the group of uninhabited islets, prompting Tokyo to seek a hotline with Beijing under the bilateral Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism.
Kishi and Wei are also expected to discuss China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and cooperation toward North Korea’s denuclearization, the sources said.
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