Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) will meet today in Hanoi, Kyodo news agency said, the latest sign of a thaw in the two nations’ strained ties.
Kitazawa and Liang will meet for about 30 minutes on the sidelines of an ASEAN gathering of defense ministers in the Vietnamese capital, Kyodo said yesterday, quoting sources familiar with bilateral relations.
They are expected to reaffirm the significance of a strategic relationship that benefits both sides, while Kitazawa plans to propose establishing a liaison system to deal with incidents in disputed waters, the agency said.
It will be the first ministerial level meeting since Beijing suspended high-level exchanges with Japan in response to the detention of the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that collided with Japanese Coast Guard ships off disputed islands, Kyodo said.
China and Japan have acted to ease tension following the stand-off over the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, called Diaoyutai (釣魚台) in Taiwan and China and Senkaku in Japan.
Katsuya Okada, Democratic Party secretary-general and a former foreign minister, told NHK that China’s position on the dispute over the islets had hurt its standing.
“Looking in the mid to long-term, China suffered considerable damage,” he said. “They showed the world that they have a different political system.”
However, Okada also said it was a mistake to look at diplomacy in terms of “win-loss.”
“It is at just such a time that we should debate calmly and mutually avoid stimulating public emotions,” he said.
Tokyo and Beijing are also seeking to hold an official summit between their prime ministers on the fringes of the East Asia Summit meeting scheduled in Hanoi later this month, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
The report said it could be followed by a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) at next month’s APEC summit in Yokohama, Japan.
Meanwhile, the last of four Japanese employees of a construction firm who had been held by China on suspicion of illegally entering a military zone in Hebei Province flew home yesterday after his release.
Sadamu Takahashi, an employee of Japanese construction company Fujita, arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport following a 20-day detention.
“I wrote a letter of apology because I videotaped a sign of a military prohibited area, which they [the Chinese authorities] said violated Chinese law,” Takahashi, 57, said at a press conference in Tokyo.
However, he said he had no recognition that he was videotaping the prohibited area until he watched the footage during the investigation, he said.
Takahashi declined to comment on a possible link between his detention and the territorial row.
He only said: “I became depressed sometimes while being caught, not knowing when I would be freed.”