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China, Japan set up military hotline to manage disputes

By K J M Varma
Last updated on: March 31, 2023 21:38 IST
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China and Japan on Friday set up a military hotline to strengthen their capability of managing and controlling maritime and air incidents arising due to their aggressive patrolling of the disputed waters in the East China Sea.

Image only for representation. Photograph: Shuji Kajiyama/Pool via Reuters

The hotline mechanism was announced ahead of the visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to Beijing this weekend for talks with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang on improving bilateral relations amid Beijing's vocal criticism against Japan's active role in the US' Indo-Pacific strategy.

China is also sharply critical of the Quad alliance comprising the US, India, Japan and Australia, saying that it is aimed at containing its rise.

This will be the first visit by the Japanese foreign minister to China since 2019 when Hayashi's predecessor Toshimitsu Motegi went to Beijing after which China shut down its borders to combat COVID-19. China reopened the country for international travel early this year.


Announcing the hotline, the Chinese defence ministry said as agreed upon by the defence departments of China and Japan, the two sides have recently completed the construction of a direct telephone line for the sea and air liaison mechanism and will maintain communication on the arrangement for the launch.

The establishment of the direct telephone line will effectively enrich the communication channels between the defence departments of China and Japan, strengthen the capabilities of the two sides to manage and control maritime and air crises, and help further maintain regional peace and stability, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning commenting on Hayashi's visit to Beijing said China and Japan are each other's important neighbours.

"A healthy and stable bilateral relationship serves the common interests of both countries and the region. China attaches importance to the visit by Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi," Mao said.

"Chinese leaders will meet with him and state councilor and foreign minister Qin Gang will hold talks with him, during which they will have in-depth exchanges of views on the bilateral relations and international and regional issues of shared interest," Mao said.

China stands ready to work with Japan to follow the strategic guidance of the important common understandings between the leaders of the two countries, she said.

China wants to take the 45th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship as an opportunity to enhance dialogue and communication, deepen practical cooperation and manage and control differences, and together work to build a stable and constructive China-Japan relationship fit for the new era, she said.

China and Japan have a long-festering dispute over uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China.

The islands are referred to as the Senkakus by Japan, while China named them Diaoyu.

Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by China as a rebel province, also claims the islands but has forged agreements with Japan to avoid any conflict as Japan maintains close defence ties with Taipei.

The hotline announced by the Chinese defence ministry is regarded as significant as the navies and air forces of both countries aggressively patrolled the islands to assert their claims.

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K J M Varma in Beijing
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