Japan mulls sending navy vessels to Chinese fleet review next year as tensions thaw

  • Proposed visit in April would be the first to China by Maritime Self-Defence Force ships since December 2011
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2018, 10:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2018, 3:31am

The Japanese government is considering sending Maritime Self-Defence Force vessels to the Chinese navy’s fleet review next April, as the two countries are looking to facilitate defence exchanges amid thawing diplomatic ties, a source familiar with bilateral ties said on Tuesday.

It would be the first visit to China by MSDF ships since December 2011. The fleet review will be held on April 23 off the city of Qingdao, eastern China, to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the country’s navy.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing in October on the resumption of mutual naval visits.

Japan may invite a Chinese warship to the MSDF’s naval review to be held in the autumn next year, a Japanese government source said.

MSDF destroyers and Chinese warships made mutual visits from 2007 to 2011, but the exchanges came to a halt when the Japanese government put the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which are called Senkaku by Japan, under state control in 2012, straining bilateral ties.

The two countries have seen a thawing of relations recently amid China’s trade dispute with the United States. Abe visited Beijing in October in the first official visit to China by a Japanese political leader in nearly seven years.

During the visit, Xi told the Japanese premier he would “seriously” consider making a trip to Japan next year, in what would be the first visit by a Chinese leader in 11 years.

Chinese warship crew says ‘good morning’ to Japanese helicopter carrier sailors in South China Sea

With tension remaining over the territorial dispute, Japan and China are aiming to prevent accidental military clashes through closer communications.

The defence authorities of the two countries also started discussions on mutual visits of their defence ministers and other high officials.

The two countries will also hold their first annual talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Beijing based on the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism set up in June.

The Chinese navy’s first international fleet review was held in 2009 to mark its 60th anniversary, in which the Japanese delegation took part without MSDF warships.