TOKYO – Tokyo and Beijing are hoping to resume bilateral talks on security issues that were suspended four years ago on account of an ongoing territorial dispute, Japan’s NHK channel reported Tuesday.
The security dialogue involving Foreign and Defense Ministry officials from both countries was last held in January 2011 and could be resumed along towards the end of March, said the reports, citing diplomatic sources.
In 2012, Japan purchased three uninhabited islets in the Senkaku island chain from a private owner, a move that enraged Beijing, which claims sovereignty over them.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries plunged to their lowest point in decades.
In November last year, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi agreed to reestablish the security talks in Tokyo.
During the new round of talks, Japan is expected to clarify matters relating to amending its pacifist constitution so as to allow for a more active role by the country’s army, which would be a matter of concern for China.
After having so often had to defend itself from Japanese aggression in the 20th century, China considers such a move by the conservative government led by Shinzo Abe might reopen the doors for Japanese militarization.
For its part, Tokyo is expected to urge Beijing to be more transparent regarding its defense budget – which has increased in recent years – and specify the amount to be invested in aircraft carriers, fighter planes and aerospace operations as well as those in cyberspace.
Japanese diplomats are also expected to protest against what Tokyo considers to be territorial intrusions by Chinese vessels in the waters surrounding the Senkaku islands.
In this context, the Japanese armed forces intend to increase their presence around these islands, and China could also demand to be informed of Japan’s intentions during their talks.
The Senkaku islands are located in the East China Sea, about 175 kilometers (109 miles) northeast of Taiwan (which also claims them) and 152 kilometers (93 miles) northwest of Japan’s Okinawa islands, and are believed to be rich in marine and energy resources.