Japan, China to resume security talks: report

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan and China plan to resume security talks as early as April after a four-year hiatus amid simmering tensions over territorial disputes, a report said Thursday.

A meeting planned for Tokyo, which would be the first since January 2011 in Beijing, will likely focus on maritime issues, Kyodo News reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

The talks will involve top officials from each country's foreign and defence ministries, including Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama, it said.

Tokyo and Beijing are at loggerheads over the sovereignty of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which Japan administers as the Senkakus, but which China claims as the Diaoyus.

Relations soured in 2012 when the Japanese government angered China by nationalising some of the islands, and Beijing has refused most high-level talks with Tokyo since, including on building a maritime crisis-management mechanism.

But the two sides broke the ice in November when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a frosty handshake on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Asked about the report, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters "there is nothing decided at this point".

"It's important that both countries exchange communications in various fields... as Japan and China are neighbours, whom the global community is watching closely," he added.

Japan is expected to ask China to make its growing defence spending more transparent and explain the reasons behind its military expansion, Kyodo said.

Beijing will likely want to talk about moves by Abe to relax the restrictions on Japan's military to allow it to come to the aid of allies under attack.

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