Japan, China Establish Military Hotline Amid Increasing Regional Friction

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Japan and China have established a direct military hotline to prevent maritime and air clashes as tensions grow over competing territorial claims in the East China Sea.

Both nations announced the setting up the confidential communications line on Friday, reported Jiji Press.

“We will utilize it not only for responding when unforeseen circumstances occur but also for building trust between the two countries,” the Japanese Defense Ministry said.

The Jiji Press report said the line would soon be operational and would link the leadership of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces at the nation’s Defense Ministry with Chinese defense ministry officials.

The announcement came ahead of Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s visit to Beijing on April 1 for talks with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang, the first such visit by a Japanese foreign minister in three years.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the two leaders will have “in-depth exchanges of views on bilateral relations and international and regional issues of shared interest.”

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C Orion surveillance plane flies over the disputed islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea, on Oct. 13, 2011. (Kyodo News via AP/File)

Disputed islands in the East China Sea have long been a source of friction between the two countries. Over the years, Japan has protested repeated intrusions by Chinese vessels in the Senkaku Islands, which are under Japanese control, but China claims and calls the Diaoyu Islands.

On Feb. 11, the Japanese Defense Ministry raised concerns with Beijing after a Chinese naval survey vessel was spotted entering Japan’s territorial waters near islands in the Kagoshima prefecture.

In January, Japan said four China Coast Guard ships entered its territorial waters in Senkaku Islands and approached a Japanese commercial ship and fishing boats. Beijing denied Japan’s claims and said the Japanese vessels had illegally entered its territory.

During the 2022 East Asia Summit in Cambodia, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida accused Beijing of threatening Japan’s sovereignty in the East China Sea and escalating tensions in the South China Sea.

“There has been continued, increasing actions by China in the East China Sea that violate Japan’s sovereignty. China also continues to take actions that heighten regional tension in the South China Sea,” he said.

Kishida also emphasized the need to maintain stability in the Taiwan Strait, where tensions between Taiwan and China have been rising. Beijing claims the democratically-elected Taiwan as part of its territory and has threatened to bring the island under its control by force if necessary.

The Japanese government approved three key defense documents last year, including the National Security Strategy, which refers to the Chinese regime as Japan’s “greatest challenge.”

It also unveiled a five-year $315 billion military expansion to deter Beijing from using force in the East China Sea.

In response, Beijing claimed that Japan has played up so-called “external threats” in recent years and greatly boosted its defense budget, and this tendency to return to the path of militarization is “very dangerous.”

Communist China is also planning a 7.2 percent increase in defense spending this year, outpacing last year’s increase and faster than the government’s modest economic growth target.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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