China and Japan on March 31 set up a military hotline to strengthen their capability of managing and controlling maritime and air incidents arising due to their aggressive patrolling of the disputed waters in the East China Sea.
The hotline mechanism was announced ahead of the visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to Beijing this weekend for talks with his Chinese counterpart Qing Gang on improving the relations between the two countries.
This will be the first visit by the Japanese Foreign Minister to China since 2019 when Mr. Hayashi’s predecessor Toshimitsu Motegi went to Beijing after which China shut down its borders to combat COVID-19. China reopened the country for international travel early this year.
Announcing the hotline, the Chinese Defence Ministry said as agreed upon by the defence departments of China and Japan, the two sides have recently completed the construction of a direct telephone line for the sea and air liaison mechanism and will maintain communication on the arrangement for the launch.
The establishment of the direct telephone line will effectively enrich the communication channels between the defence departments of China and Japan, strengthen the capabilities of the two sides to manage and control maritime and air crises, and help further maintain regional peace and stability, the ministry said.
China and Japan have a long-festering dispute over uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
The islands are referred to as the Senkakus by Japan, while China named them Diaoyu.
Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by China as a rebel province, also claims the islands but has forged agreements with Japan to avoid any conflict as Japan maintains close defence ties with Taipei.
The hotline announced by the Chinese defence ministry is regarded as significant as the navies and air forces of both countries aggressively patrolled the islands to assert their claims.