Military Hot Line Will Link China and Japan
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Military-to-military confidence-building measures between Beijing and Tokyo are expected to improve with the installation of a hot line connecting China’s People’s Liberation Army’s General Staff Headquarters and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces’ Joint Staff Headquarters.
No formal agreement has been signed, but a joint press statement issued April 12 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stated a communication system would be set up between defense establishments to avert naval and air accidents at sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchou did not confirm whether it would be an actual hot line, but said a proposal was discussed.
“During his meeting with Prime Minister Abe, Premier Wen proposed to strengthen the dialogue and communication between the two defense authorities, inform each other of major military and security measures and accelerate the establishment of a maritime crisis management mechanism,” Liu said at an April 17 press conference.
Maritime disputes with China, including Chinese military intrusions, have called attention to the need for a hotline.
“China is developing natural gas fields near the bilateral median line in the East China Sea, and the dispute over the demarcation of the boundary between the two countries is a potential source of conflict,” said Sumihiko Kawamura, deputy director of The Okazaki Institute, Tokyo.
Chinese naval vessels have intruded into the Exclusive Economic Zone claimed by Japan and have conducted repeated maritime research activities despite Tokyo’s protests. Kawamura said he believes a hot line would help facilitate communications, but it is not a “panacea.”
In the past, argues Kawamura, China has largely ignored Japanese complaints of naval intrusions. In November 2004, a Chinese Han-class nuclear submarine entered Japanese waters near Okinawa, and Beijing ignored complaints from Tokyo.
“In the Han-class submarine incident, China took six months in response to a protest from the government of Japan, and friction arose between the two countries,” Kawamura said. “Six months later, Beijing explained the incident took place due to technical error and expressed its regret, but no apology. A defense hot line will not address the deeper sources of the security differences.”
Kawamura said he believes the hot line would be impractical without the establishment of detailed rules such as the “traffic rules procedures found in the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Incidents at Sea Agreement in addition to a hot line.”
Further movement on the agreement is expected during the visit later this year of Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan to Japan, where he will meet Tokyo’s new defense minister, Fumio Kyuma.