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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 17:02 PM | 06-12-2017

Tokyo and Beijing agree on hotline

Japan and China have largely agreed on how to implement a maritime and aerial communication mechanism aimed at averting unintended clashes in and above the East China Sea amid a long-running territorial dispute over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday (Dec 6, 2017).

The mechanism, a sort of hotline between defense officials from the two countries, is expected to be put into practice in the near future after a decade of hard-fought negotiations.

Japan and China must still work out the details of the mechanism before reaching an official agreement, according to Kyodo News Agency.

The breakthrough was struck during a two-day meeting of senior officials in Shanghai, the ministry said. It is yet another sign of bilateral ties improving at a rapid pace after October’s twice-a-decade Communist Party congress, where President Xi Jinping further consolidated his grip on power.

In the wake of the congress, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Xi agreed on the sidelines of a regional economic summit in Vietnam last month that Asia’s two biggest economies would make a “fresh start” after ties had frayed over the territorial dispute.

Diplomats and defense officials from the two countries were engaged in behind-the-scene negotiations this autumn and both sides agreed during the Shanghai meeting not to specify the geographical scope of the mechanism, sources close to bilateral relations said.

Efforts to reach an agreement on the mechanism had been stymied by a major stumbling block — how to treat territorial waters and airspace around the Japanese-administered Senkakus, uninhabited islands that China calls the Diaoyus. Taiwan also claims the islands, which it calls the Tiaoyutais.

Japan has demanded that its territorial waters and airspace do not fall within the scope of the mechanism, out of concern that China could take advantage of the deal to strengthen its claim to the islands by interpreting the new framework as giving it a legitimate right to approach them.

In working toward the implementation of the mechanism, senior Japanese and Chinese officials are believed to have agreed that the system will not undermine the legal positions of each country.

 

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