Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Japan pushes for hotline with Chinese government

AFP , TOKYO

Japan's defense chief yesterday appealed for talks with his Chinese counterpart and suggested setting up a hotline before disputes over energy and other issues escalate into a "military threat."

Defense Agency director-general Fukushiro Nukaga said Japan was concerned over China's rapid military buildup, pointing to Chinese warships spotted near a disputed gas field this year and a submarine that violated Japanese waters last year.

"What we have to keep in mind is that we must deepen exchanges before these things grow into a military threat," he said on a talk show on the private Asahi network.

Nukaga said the two countries should have "something like a hotline that would enable us to contact each other and share information" in case of emergency.

He said he wanted to use his television appearance to invite Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan (曹剛川) to Japan, saying mutual understanding would bring a "sense of stability" to relations that sunk to rock bottom this year.

Noting China's defense chief last visited Japan in 1998 and Japan's defense head went there two years ago, he said: "I earnestly hope the Chinese side will come next time round. I want to have frank exchanges of opinion."

Japanese Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai, speaking on the same television program, also invited Chinese Commerce Minister Bo Xilai (薄熙來) to Japan.

The Japanese minister said he and Bo agreed to seek an amicable solution to the bitter dispute over energy resources in the East China Sea when they met in South Korea on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific meeting.

Nikai said Japan also hoped to hold a bilateral forum to help China with energy saving and tackling pollution.

"If we can shift Japanese machinery and technology to China, it would also contribute to Japanese industry," he said.

"We have to say what we should say [to China] to protect Japan's national interest, but there would be no use if we compete with each other on everything stubbornly," he said.

Both Nukaga and Nikai last month joined the Cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who has infuriated neighboring countries over his visits to Yasukuni shrine.

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