China-Japan relations

China and Japan agree to set up hotline to prevent military clashes

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese leader Shinzo Abe also vowed to reset ties and cooperate on infrastructure projects during talks in Tokyo

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 9:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 12:23am

China and Japan vowed to reset bilateral ties and agreed to set up a hotline to prevent military clashes at sea and in the air, as well as cooperate on infrastructure projects during top-level talks on Wednesday.

The hotline for senior military officials to communicate in the case of incidents involving their navies or air forces will be launched within 30 days under an agreement signed after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

They also agreed to push forward regular meetings between defence officials and to set up a communication mechanism to avoid maritime incidents when their naval vessels meet in disputed waters. But it would not cover those near the uninhabited islets known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China, which are controlled by Tokyo and also claimed by Beijing.

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The two countries also agreed to resume a currency swap arrangement in times of financial emergency, and they will launch a public-private sector council to consider cooperation projects related to Beijing’s belt and road trade and infrastructure strategy.

China has also promised to grant Japan a 200 billion yuan (US$31.4 billion) investment quota, enabling Japanese institutional investors to buy altogether up to that amount in yuan-denominated stocks and bonds.

During the meeting with Abe, Li – who is on his first official visit to Japan since becoming premier in 2012 – said that the two sides should take the opportunity to get bilateral ties back on a normal track.

“As close neighbours and major economies of the world, long-term, healthy and stable relations between China and Japan are mutually beneficial and in line with the peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world,” Li was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua.

Relations between the two countries are “at a crucial stage to improve bilateral ties”, Li told Abe, adding that the two neighbours should be partners rather than foes.

Abe, who rolled out the red carpet for Li at Akasaka Palace, a state guest house in the west of the city, said Li’s visit marked a fresh start for bilateral ties.

“I want to raise Japan-China relations to a new level,” Abe said, adding that he also planned to visit Beijing later this year. Abe also invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan next year.

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Li’s visit came amid efforts by Beijing and Tokyo to improve relations that have been held back by long-standing and intractable territorial and historical disputes.

Relations between Asia’s two largest economic powers reached a new low in 2012, when Tokyo brought the Diaoyu Islands under state control, prompting a diplomatic stand-off and anti-Japanese demonstrations in China.

Since then, relations have slowly started to thaw although there have been flare-ups, with Tokyo accusing Beijing of sending navy vessels to the contested waters while Beijing has blamed Tokyo for fuelling tensions in the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with a number of Southeast Asian countries.

But signs of warming ties emerged late last year, when Abe attended a celebration marking China’s National Day at its embassy in Tokyo, and expressed interest in joining Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative” spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.

The two sides are also expected to jointly explore business cooperation deals in third countries.

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Li will meet Japanese Emperor Akihito on Thursday before flying to the northern island of Hokkaido, where he will join a conference with local political leaders.

Sun Cheng, a Japanese affairs expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, said while Li’s visit was a good sign for bilateral ties, suspicions ran deep between the two sides.

“But cooperating under the belt and road plan will be good for Japan too, because it’s an opportunity for Japan to reach broader markets through this New Silk Road. China will also be able to learn from Japan’s experience in finance and investment,” Sun said.

“Cooperation will be good for both China and Japan, as long as it’s sincere.”

Additional reporting by Kyodo and Reuters