Japan and China have agreed to resume bilateral military education exchanges after a six-year hiatus, Japanese media report. The move comes amid a territorial row in the East China Sea between the two nations.
On Monday, senior Chinese Army officers met with the chairman of Japan’s Sasakawa Peace Foundation in charge of the program, Yohei Sasakawa, in Beijing, according to Japanese media citing an official. The sides also stressed that the move would promote bilateral defense cooperation, Sasakawa said.
The program is said to be resuming in April, with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel visiting Japan. The education exchanges are to continue for the next five years.
Earlier, the Chinese military official website revealed that the defense education exchanges are to resume.
The report they refer to added that Beijing may send personnel to attend the 66th general course at Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS). The 10-month program is scheduled to start in September.
Before the program’s suspension, more than 330 officers – 126 from the Japanese Self Defense Force and 207 from the PLA – had taken part in exchange visits, according to the Sasakawa Japan-China Friendship Fund.
The exchanges were halted by the Chinese side in 2012 in the wake of a heightened Sino-Japanese territorial row in the East China Sea. Beijing insists that Tokyo unilaterally nationalized the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu by their Chinese name. The archipelago is claimed by China, but has been administered by Japan since the 1970s.
The territorial row has repeatedly resulted in stand-offs in the area. A recent case occurred in mid-January, when Tokyo said a Chinese nuclear “attack submarine” had been spotted in waters off the flashpoint islands. Beijing reiterated that its vessels had “conducted a patrol in territorial waters off the Diaoyu Islands,” without elaborating their types.
Japan is reportedly planning to install advanced radar systems on some of the islands to give advanced warning of Chinese naval operations close to or within Japanese waters around islands in the area, as well as monitor illegal operations by North Korean fishing vessels.
The two countries’ air forces also frequently meet in the skies over the East China Sea, as Chinese military aircraft have routinely been spotted flying in the area. One of the latest episodes occurred in November, when China dispatched intelligence-gathering aircraft as well as bombers through international airspace in the waters Japan scrambled fighter jets in response, despite China calling the flyover a “regular” exercise and saying that a similar drill would occur.