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Hello Tokyo
Japan and China to Hook Up a Hotline

Since China and Japan took some preliminary steps to deescalate their bitter dispute, they have been working on creating a diplomatic mechanism for keeping any incidents on or over the disputed East and South China Seas from blowing up into a larger conflict. According to The Diplomat, they are getting near to their goal:

This month, Japan and China resumed their high-level security dialogue after a hiatus of about four years — a period of time in which tensions over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea skyrocketed following Japan’s decision to nationalize them in 2012.

Representatives from the China, Japan, and South Korea were in Seoul to discuss regional issues last week. Soon, the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister,Liu Jianchao, will travel to Tokyo to meet his counterpart for security talks.

Meanwhile, the Japan Times reports that senior officials from Japan and China are planning on meeting in Singapore in May to continue talks on a bilateral maritime crisis management mechanism, a device that would allow Tokyo and Beijing to prevent any miscalculations in the East China Sea. […]

Officials on both sides are eager to finalize a consultative maritime crisis management hotline — a crucial step toward stabilizing the air and water over and around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

Reuters reports that at a hotly-anticipated meeting this week, which has just concluded, the two sides failed to come up with a timeline for the crisis mechanism. They did, however, agree to keep working toward better ties—and, as Reuters notes: “In a sign of a thaw in Sino-Japanese ties, foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea are set to meet on Saturday in Seoul for the first time in nearly three years.”

The proposal to establish a Tokyo-Beijing hotline originally emerged from Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe’s meeting at the APEC conference this past November, when China seemed to soften its diplomatic stance on territorial claims. China has returned to form somewhat since then, and is not likely to change its long-term revisionist goals under Xi. But it looks like Beijing is still trying to keep up its softer appearances, at least on the surface, than it was last year.

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