China has sent its first military delegation to Japan since the Diaoyus dispute boiled over last month, suggesting signs that the recent strains on relations may be easing.
Several naval officers from the People's Liberation Army attended a regional co-operation meeting hosted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force in Tokyo yesterday, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK and ribenxinwen.com  a Japan-based Chinese news portal.
The gathering followed news over weekend that Beijing and Tokyo were preparing for subministerial diplomatic talk aimed at easing tensions that escalated after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda moved to buy some of the East China Sea islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.
At the 10-day military meeting at MSDF Staff College, 20 young officers from 19 nations, including China, Australia, Canada, South Korea and the United States, were expected to discuss joint rescue operations and maritime safety collaboration, NHK reported.
Participants would also visit MSDF frigates and observe sea rescue training.
Lian Degui , a Japanese affairs expert at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said maintaining some military relations was critical.
"Such communication is essential to avoiding misjudgment of the intentions of each others, preventing tensions from being further raised," Lian said.
Antony Wong, president of the Macau-based International Military Association, said the exchange "has proved that there is no military confrontation between the two neighbouring countries, though the atmosphere has long been tense at the civilian level".
Earlier last week, Beijing announced that both its central bank governor and finance minister would skip the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Tokyo, sending deputies instead.
Meanwhile, Xinhua issued a signed commentary yesterday saying the prospect of new talks between Beijing and Tokyo "brings hope to the current quagmire dragging the two countries down in the disheartening global economic outlook".
Additional reporting by Teddy Ng in Beijing