• Kyodo

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Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Monday he had agreed with Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe to seek the early establishment of a hotline between their officials amid tensions over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea.

During their first talks since Kishi took his post in September, he expressed concern about the tension over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls Diaoyu, a Japanese Defense Ministry official said at a briefing.

“I strongly requested that no actions be taken that might escalate the situation,” Kishi told reporters after the videoconference, adding that he urged China to refrain from any “attempts to unilaterally change the status quo on the back of its might.”

The two neighbors launched a communication mechanism between their defense authorities in 2018 to avoid accidental clashes at sea and in the air. Opening a hotline was a pillar of the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism but they have made little progress.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his visit to Japan last month that he and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi had agreed to set up a hotline within the year.

The Defense Ministry official said the two ministers did not discuss a time frame for the hotline.

Kishi said they agreed that stable bilateral relations are essential for regional stability and prosperity, and their defense authorities should continue dialogue to maintain close communication.

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