June 29 03:55 pm JST 12 Comments
Japan and China on Thursday started a two-day senior official consultation on maritime affairs in Fukuoka, where they are expected to discuss ways to avoid unintended clashes in the East China Sea.
The focus of the gathering is on whether the two countries can pave the way for an early implementation of a "Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism," effectively a hotline between defense officials, aimed at preventing accidental clashes in the sea where China challenges the sovereignty of Japanese-controlled uninhabited islets.
Japan and China have failed to make a breakthrough in their talks on the matter so far, due in part to Tokyo's decision to put the Senkaku Islands in the sea under state control in 2012, drawing sharp opposition from Beijing, which calls the islands Diaoyu.
In recent years, Chinese vessels have entered territorial waters near the islets.
Ahead of an envisioned meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany on July 7-8, Tokyo wants to ease tensions in the East China Sea, a foreign ministry official said.
At the seventh consultation on maritime affairs, senior officials from foreign ministries, defense ministries and coast guards of the two countries are also set to exchange views on a joint development project of gas fields in the sea.
On Friday, they are scheduled to visit Hakata port in Fukuoka Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
The last consultation was held in Haikou, capital of China's Hainan Province, in December 2016.
Tokyo and Beijing held their first high-level talks on maritime affairs in May 2012 in China. They had been suspended against the backdrop of the territorial row but restarted in September 2014.
The negotiations have taken place about twice a year by turns in Japan and China.