Japan, China plan to resume defence exchanges

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono (left) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi as they pose before their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Jan 28, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Japan and China are likely to restart their education and training exchanges for defence officials in September, after a six-year hiatus, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Both governments are making arrangements to resume the exchanges, sources said.

The Chinese military has not dispatched its officials as trainees to the Defence Ministry and the Self-Defence Forces since Japan laid claim to the Senkaku islands in 2012.

The islands have long been a source of territorial sovereignty dispute between Japan, China and Taiwan.

China refer to the islands as Diaoyu and insists that they have been a part of Chinese territory since at least 1534.

The move to restart the exchanges comes after the Chinese government softened its stance following improvement in bilateral ties.

At the Japan-China foreign ministers' talks in Beijing on Sunday (Jan 29), Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed to steadily promote reciprocal visits by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The improvement of the bilateral relationship appears to be gaining momentum, according to the sources.

China has recently expressed its intention to send its officials again, as Japan has repeatedly sounded Beijing out on the possibility at meetings among defence officials of the two countries, the sources said.

Japan will make arrangements with China for the dispatch of Chinese trainees to a 10-month programme, starting in September, of the National Institute for Defence Studies (NIDS), a political think-tank of Japan's Defence Ministry.

The bilateral exchange programme for defence officials started in fiscal 2003 as part of efforts to promote trust among them.

Tokyo accepted Chinese military officials at the NIDS, but Beijing stopped sending them following dispute over the islands.

Tokyo has continued to dispatch defence ministry officials and SDF personnel to Chinese military training institutions.

The NIDS has a programme to develop senior officials for SDF members and officials, and has accepted trainees from overseas. Trainees study primarily security and Japan's defence policy in Japanese. From the Chinese military, eight colonel-level senior officials, including an air controller, have joined the programme so far.

Instructors from China's national defence university, which is under the umbrella of the Chinese military, previously visited Japan to give lectures to SDF members and others. But that programme was suspended after the last lecture in March 2012.

Japan also aims for the early restart of this endeavour.

During Japan-China bilateral talks in November last year, Abe and Xi agreed to thoroughly improve bilateral relations.

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