Editorial Notes

Maintain positive momentum in China-Japan relations: China Daily

The paper says that the bid to establish a functional liaison mechanism is the latest effort to promote bilateral security relations.

China's State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) and his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi attend a joint news conference in Tokyo on Nov 24, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - When Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Japan in late November for talks with his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi, it was agreed that the two sides would strive to open a direct telephone link between their defence departments as part of the two countries' maritime and air liaison mechanism within the year.

This shared will to accelerate the building of the liaison mechanism was reaffirmed in the conversation between Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and his Japanese counterpart Kishi Nobuo via video link on Monday (Dec 14) afternoon.

Establishing a well-functioning liaison mechanism would undoubtedly be conducive to both risk management and confidence building between the two militaries, and more broadly the two countries' governments.

As the Chinese defence minister said, more multilevel contacts between the two countries' defense departments would help promote constructive security relations, especially if both sides bear the big picture in mind and properly deal with their differences, which have threatened to niggle their way to the forefront of their relations again in recent months.

Noting that the leaders of both countries had reached an important consensus on building China-Japan relations, Mr Wei called for the defence authorities of the two countries to maintain high-level exchanges and practical cooperation.

The idea for a liaison mechanism was initiated by the two countries' defence departments as a crisis management tool for preventing unintended spats or incidents between their frontline air and naval forces.

It first came to light during an August 2007 visit to Japan by the then defence minister of China. A subsequent joint communique vowed to establish such a mechanism in order to preserve peace in the East China Sea.

In June 2018, the two parties officially announced its inauguration. The latest consensus on "accelerating" its construction, however, suggests it is not yet operational.

The slow pace of progress certainly has to do with the lack of mutual confidence security-wise.

This was one of the issues that President Xi Jinping and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed in their meeting ahead of the G20 Summit in Osaka in June last year.

One of the things agreed on in the 10-point common understanding that emerged from that meeting was that the two sides should strengthen communication and cooperation in security and actively promote the building of constructive bilateral security relations.

The bid to accelerate the establishing of a functional liaison mechanism is the latest effort to follow through on this, and it will surely, especially if realised at an early date, help stabilise bilateral ties.

It comes at a timely moment, as it remains to be seen how the next US administration will interpret the president-elect's reported affirmation that the US-Japan Treaty of Security and Safeguard applies to the Diaoyu Islands.

It would be beneficial to both countries and the wider region at large if China and Japan can maintain the positive momentum in their relations and shore up mutual trust.

China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.

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