MonitorsPublished on Oct 06, 2016
South China Sea Monitor | Volume V; Issue 10 | China-Japan maritime movements

The fifth round of high-level talks on maritime affairs was held between Japan and China at Hiroshima on September 14 to 15. Held among senior diplomats and defence and coast guard officials from both countries, the primary aim of the talks was twofold: containing unintended maritime clashes in neighbouring waters and resumption of dialogue over joint gas development in the East China Sea. The talks also covered the possibility of introduction of "Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism" between the two countries, which would further contribute to the reduction and/or de-escalation of conflicts in the East China Sea.

The talks were launched in 2012 and were geared towards promoting confidence-building measures among officials in charge of maritime affairs in both countries. However, the talks have largely remained ornamental as many of the agendas and initiatives are yet to take off. For instance, the joint gas development project in the East China Sea which was agreed to in 2008 remains mired in overwrought bilateral ties. Similarly, the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism has made little progress as Chinese vessels are time and again found in waters claimed by Japan.

The two nations are constantly locked in a war of words with China telling Japan earlier in the month that it will not acquiesce to any excessive criticism of Chinese actions in the East and South China seas. China also warned Japan against raising the issue at the recently held G20 Summit. The first round of talks since April 2015 between Chinese Premier Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also organised around that time. The outcome of the meeting was nothing novel and was mainly along previously discussed lines. Tokyo urged Beijing to acknowledge its position on the Senkaku islands and to also respect the July ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. On its part, Beijing said that the authority of "rule of law" as far as maritime issues are concerned, is unacceptable to them.

Despite the difficult bilateral relationship, ties can arguably said to be better at present than what they were a few years ago. This is primarily because both countries realise that they have to iron out their differences and move along. This however does not imply that both powers are headed towards reconciliation. It simply indicates that differences notwithstanding, they have to at least try to maintain workable relations. Indeed, scholars from the countries are of the opinion that there needs to be a healthy combination of cooperation and competition for a better future.

It is interesting to note that the fifth round of these talks came at a time when maritime interactions between Japan and China are rather difficult. Nevertheless, the fact that importance is attached to dialogue by both sides is vital for the region. The question is: To what extent dialogue would actually help when popular nationalism in domestic politics of the two countries plays an increasing role in shaping foreign policy.


China warns Japan against 'playing with fire' in South China Sea

China warned Japan that it is "playing with fire" in the South China Sea after Tokyo said it would "increase engagement" in the contested waters. The rebuke comes just days after China sent fighter jets — part of a group of more than 40 aircraft — through a key international entryway into the Western Pacific for the first time. On a visit to Washington earlier this month, Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said that Tokyo would "increase its engagement in the South China Sea through … Maritime Self-Defence Force joint training cruises with the US Navy" and via maritime capacity-building with littoral states in the region.

Source: The Japan Times

Duterte: 2016 Philippines-US Balikatan to be the last

President Duterte on Wednesday declared an end to joint military exercises with US forces, saying the upcoming scheduled war games would be the "last one." "I am serving notice now to the Americans. I will maintain military alliance because of RP-US pact which our country signed in the early 1950s," Duterte said. During his two-day visit to Vietnam, he said that he wants to establish new trade and commercial alliances with China and Russia, and that the war games were something Beijing does not want.

Source: Philstar

Row escalates over South China Sea report

The war of words between Singapore’s ambassador to Beijing and the editor-in-chief of a nationalistic Chinese tabloid over a report about the city state’s role in the South China Sea dispute shows no sign of abating. The Singaporean ambassador, Stanley Loh, issued a second open letter on Wednesday, questioning the credibility of the Global Times newspaper report — saying that it did not have any reporter present at the international meeting at the centre of the controversy.

Source: South China Morning Post

Japan scrambles jets as China warplanes fly through Okinawa strait

The Air Self-Defence Force scrambled aircraft as at least eight Chinese fighters and bombers — and possibly more than 40 — passed through a critical international entryway into the Western Pacific. They used a legal but politically sensitive passage through Okinawa, apparently to send a message to Tokyo. It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defence minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

Source: The Japan Times

Japan to boost South China Sea role with training patrols with US

Japan will step up its activity in the contested South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States and bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional navies, Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said on Thursday. Inada said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, that Japan's increased engagement in the area, where Japan shares US concerns about China's pursuit of extensive territorial claims, would include capacity building for coastal nations.

Source: Reuters

Japan, China hold maritime talks amid Senkaku tensions

Japan and China on Wednesday started a two-day meeting of senior officials on maritime issues, including a system aimed at preventing unintended clashes in and over nearby waters and the possible restart of talks on joint gas development in the East China Sea. The convening of the maritime talks, attended by senior diplomats and defence and coast guard officials from both countries, was agreed between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at their meeting earlier this month in China amid tensions around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Source: The Japan Times

China says interests outweigh differences with Vietnam

Common interests between China and Vietnam far outweigh differences, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Vietnam's prime minister on Tuesday, calling for their dispute in the South China Sea to be resolved through talks. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, where about $5 trillion worth of seaborne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims in the sea, believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.

Source: Reuters

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