Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada met with his Chinese counterpart Mr. Liang Guanglie in Beijing on March 20 and talked about bilateral issues and the security situation in Northeast Asia. They agreed on some points and disagreed on others. Despite differences on some issues, it is important that both nations prevent miscalculation and misunderstanding through deeper defense dialogue. Mr. Hamada’s visit followed then Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan’s Tokyo visit in August 2008.

Mr. Hamada expressed Japan’s apprehension over North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite in early April, stressing Japan’s stance that the launch violates the October 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution. Japan plans to step up sanctions against the North. Mr. Liang said the best thing is for North Korea not to launch the satellite, adding that he understands Japan’s position but that the nations concerned should pursue a cool response.

Touching on China’s defense budget, which has seen two-digit growth for 21 consecutive years, Mr. Hamada called on China to disclose the details of the budget, the current situation of the Chinese forces and the goals of the defense buildup. As he said, such disclosure is important to ensure regional peace and stability and deepen mutual understanding. Regrettably, Mr. Liang brushed aside Japan’s concerns and sought to justify the buildup by saying that Chinese equipment is lagging behind that of other nations. Despite this response, Japan on its part should make its defense policy and budget transparent.

Mr. Liang made clear China’s plan to build aircraft carriers. Although Mr. Hamada made no particular responses, China’s possession and deployment of flattops would cause worry among neighboring nations. It is all the more important for China to make its military policy and posture transparent.

Mr. Hamada and Mr. Liang agreed on the exchange of information between Japanese and Chinese ships on antipiracy missions off Somalia. It is hoped that this and other agreements on defense exchanges will strengthen efforts to build confidence between Japan and China.

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