Japan, China Defense Chiefs Meet to Discuss ‘Many Concerns’; First Meeting Between Current Chiefs

Defense Minister Minoru Kihara from Japan met with his Chinese counterpart, Dong Jun, at the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore on Saturday. The focus of their meeting was to discuss issues related to the Senkaku Islands and to engage in candid talks about the security concerns between their two countries. This bilateral meeting marked a significant step in the relationship between the two defense ministers, as it was the first time that Kihara and Dong had met, and the first time that a bilateral meeting had occurred between Japanese and Chinese defense ministers since June of last year at the same gathering. At the outset of the meeting, Kihara acknowledged the many security concerns between Japan and China, including the situation involving the Senkaku Islands, as well as the Chinese military’s increased activity in the sea and airspace around Japan. He emphasized that the only way to address these concerns was through candid discussions, which would help promote more constructive and stable relations between their two nations. In response, Dong stated that he was interested in finding ways to build a more constructive and stable relationship between China and Japan. In addition to discussing the Senkaku Islands, the two leaders also talked about the significance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. As China conducted a large-scale military exercise surrounding Taiwan on May 23-24, Kihara underscored the importance of maintaining stability in the region. The Taiwan Strait also has implications for Japan-China relations. Taiwan's current administration under President Lai Ching-te has adopted a Japan-oriented stance, which causes Beijing to become nervous regarding Taipei's strengthening ties with Tokyo. Although Japan and China have a hot-line in place since last year to avoid accidental clashes, both officials underlined that they would appropriately operate the hotline and continue to discuss similar significant issues as this meeting because it is essential to continue dialogues between both countries. This was the initial opportunity for Kihara and Dong to hold talks, and this meeting is a significant step in improving relations between Japan and China. Such discussions between the two defense ministers will be an essential part of resolving the issues relating to the Senkaku Islands and addressing the concerns both countries have about each other's military postures
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