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The video talks held between State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi on Monday, their first in a year, sent a positive signal that the two neighbors are keen to strengthen military exchanges and strategic communication. This is crucial to ratchet down tensions between the two countries over maritime issues, especially the Taiwan question.

Media reports from both sides suggest the two defense ministers discussed issues including the East China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, which have been at the heart of the intensifying spat between the two neighbors due to Tokyo’s provocative rhetoric and activities challenging China’s maritime territorial integrity and interests.

Japan already has a maritime dispute with China over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea and has sided with the United States over the South China Sea issue. To enthusiastically echo the United States’ strategic intention to contain China’s rise and development, Japan has also staged one farce after another over the Taiwan question in recent months, drawing the ire of China.

On Dec 23, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency said the US and Japan are drawing up a joint military operation plan for a possible Taiwan emergency during their upcoming high-level security meeting in January.

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe also made provocative statements on the Taiwan question earlier this month, stating that a “Taiwan emergency” would be “a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance”.

Such remarks not only amount to blatant interference in China’s internal affairs, they also toxify the atmosphere for bilateral ties. Hence, it is unsurprising that Japan was reportedly the one to ask for the talks, as it has encountered a strong backlash to its recent antics.

During the talks, Wei stressed that China will firmly safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. He also pointed to the need to strengthen high-level exchanges and expand the maritime and air liaison mechanism between the two military departments to jointly control risks and prevent conflict.

Kishi, for his part, acknowledged the importance of strengthening bilateral defense exchanges and strategic communication, alongside the promotion of the establishment of a military hotline under the maritime and air liaison mechanism.

Since it is Tokyo that is responsible for the current tensions over maritime issues, it should exercise restraint and demonstrate that it is sincere about working with China to de-escalate tensions and do more to build strategic mutual trust between the two sides.

The onus is on Japan to honor its commitment to the one-China principle, respect China’s maritime interests and stop its strategic manipulations in collusion with the US to infringe upon China’s sovereignty and integrity and interfere in China’s internal affairs.

-The Daily Mail-China Daily News Exchange Item