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2010年10月14日 (木)

海上安全保障 中国は協議に前向き対応を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 14, 2010)
Continue dialogue with China to ensure security
海上安全保障 中国は協議に前向き対応を(10月13日付・読売社説)

The recent meeting between Japanese and Chinese defense chiefs marked a definite first step toward improving the soured relationship between Tokyo and Beijing, but the road ahead is not likely to be smooth.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie agreed to steadily promote a strategic, mutually beneficial relationship between the two nations in Hanoi on Monday. Their conversation was held on the sidelines of a defense minister's meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus eight countries that include Japan and the United States.

The meeting was in line with an agreement to "hold high-level talks when appropriate," made when Prime Minister Naoto Kan met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Brussels on Oct. 4. With Monday's meeting, Japan-China relations seem to be gradually normalizing after being strained following collisions last month between a Chinese trawler and two Japan Coast Guard vessels in waters near the Senkaku Islands.


China still reluctant to engage

However, the meeting also revealed Beijing is still cautious toward Tokyo. In response to requests from China, the meeting was unofficial, and a scheduled port call to Qingdao, China, from Friday by a fleet of Maritime Self-Defense Force training ships likely will be postponed.

Liang reportedly told Kitazawa the naval exchange would be put off because China must carefully consider its citizens' feelings. But this claim sounds too one-sided and is difficult to understand.

However, when Kitazawa requested the quick establishment of a maritime contact mechanism in the East China Sea, Liang reportedly agreed that tangible results needed to be produced soon.

The contact mechanism would facilitate emergency communication between defense chiefs and high-ranking officers to prevent minor collisions between Japanese and Chinese naval vessels from developing into serious situations. China established similar military hotlines with the United States and South Korea two years ago.

Although Japan and China have been planning such a system for more than 10 years, results have yet to materialize. But after the recent collisions off the Senkaku Islands and two incidents in which a Chinese Navy helicopter buzzed a MSDF destroyer this spring, establishment of a hotline is needed as quickly as possible.


Resolve needed to mend ties

There are still bones of contention between Japan and China, but the strategic, mutually beneficial relationship can only take shape if the two countries continue engaging in dialogue and making tangible achievements.

China's reluctance to promote bilateral defense exchanges, such as visits by high-ranking officers and port calls, is apparently motivated by a desire to keep its military situation hidden.

However, enhanced military transparency by China will help reassure its neighbors, which see Beijing as a threat. We believe this also will benefit China itself.

While in Hanoi, Kitazawa met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday. The two defense chiefs reportedly agreed to continue to cooperate and consult closely to deal with China's intensifying naval activities in the East China Sea and other waters.

On Tuesday, 10 ASEAN member states and eight other countries, including Japan, the United States and China, held the first meeting of their defense chiefs. The group adopted a joint declaration promoting multinational cooperation in maritime security and disaster rescue operations, among other areas.

To steadily urge China to contribute to Asia's stability, we believe it is vital for Japan to increase cooperation with the United States and other concerned nations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 13, 2010)
(2010年10月13日01時50分  読売新聞)


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