Japan and China ministers make first defense hotline contact
After years of negotiations, Japan and China used a new military hotline for the first time on Tuesday, according to their respective defense ministries.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada spoke with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu for 20 minutes, according to a statement from Tokyo’s ministry.
“Hamada mentioned the existence of security concerns between Japan and China, such as the situation in the East China Sea,” the report stated.
He “stated that candid communication is necessary, particularly when there are concerns about Japan-China relations.”
Beijing verified the request and stated that the air and maritime hotline would “contribute to the continued maintenance of regional peace and stability.”
The hotline, which went live on March 31, had been discussed for over a decade as a means to prevent unanticipated conflicts in the East China Sea.
A territorial dispute over islets in the region known as the Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu by Beijing has long been a source of tension between the two nations.
Japan, weary of its neighbor’s growing military strength, has publicly protested the presence of Chinese vessels around the disputed islets, as well as in other regions, such as near Okinawa.
As the second- and third-largest economies in the world, respectively, China and Japan are important trading partners and celebrated 50 years of diplomatic relations last year.
However, relations between the two countries are frequently tense, and deteriorated in December when Japan announced a security overhaul, including an increase in defense expenditure, and called China its “greatest strategic challenge ever”.
Recent statements by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida indicate that he desires “constructive and stable” relations with China.
Kishida met President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a summit last year, and Japan’s foreign minister made his first travel to Beijing since December 2019 last month.
This week, Kishida will host G7 leaders in Hiroshima, where the bloc’s relationship with China will be a central topic of discussion.
In April, at a meeting of G7 foreign ministers seen as setting the stage for the summit, the group warned Beijing about “militarisation activities” in the South China Sea.