Wednesday May 27, 2020


May 16, 2012


On May 16, Chinese and Japanese officials responsible for foreign relations, national defense, and maritime issues gathered in Hangzhou, China to discuss maritime security. The talks represented the first round of what are expected to be regular meetings between China and Japan on maritime issues, according to a plan laid out in December, 2011 by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Additional talks are expected to be held in Japan later in 2012.

While the talks were not officially limited to any one topic, much discussion is expected to center on a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, called the Diaoyu Islands in Chinese and the Senkaku Islands in Japanese. This island chain, claimed by both Japan and China and currently under Japanese control, has been the source of several recent incidents that greatly strained China-Japan relations. The Chinese government reacted angrily in April to Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to purchase the islands from private owners, a plan that is still in the works despite Chinese opposition. More seriously, China-Japan relations hit a low point in 2010 when Japanese officials arrested Chinese fisherman accused of ramming Japanese patrol boats near the disputed islands. The talks currently being held in Hangzhou are designed to prevent exactly this sort of unexpected maritime incident from straining the relationship between these two neighboring countries.

The talks have set a lofty goal of finding peaceful and cooperative solutions for this thorny issue. Unfortunately, many believed that another issue would overshadow the conference, creating more tensions. Japan recently agreed to allow the World Uighur Congress to meet in Tokyo. The Chinese government reacted with strong criticism, saying that the WUC is an “anti-China separatist organization” with links to terrorist groups. The Japanese government declined to interfere with the scheduled meeting, insisting that the World Uighur Congress is a private group. Commentators suspect that Chinese officials’ anger over the WUC’s reception in Japan lead President Hu Jintao to avoid a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Noda during the weekend’s trilateral talks between China, Japan, and South Korea. Noda did meet with Premier Wen Jiabao, but the meeting was reportedly tense and confrontational, with numerous sallies by both sides on issues such as territorial disputes, the Uighur conference, and human rights in China.

However, despite a recent flare-up in tensions, China and Japan are making great efforts to cooperate economically. Over the weekend, China, Japan, and Korea’s top leaders met to discuss closer economic ties, and a possible free trade agreement between the three countries. Outside of the economic realm, though, major sources of tension remain. Today’s talks between China and Japan represented a good faith effort to assuage some of the tension over maritime issues. The continuing standoff between China and the Philippines over the disputed Scarborough Shoal symbolizes how strongly maritime disputes can affect bilateral relations, and both China and Japan want to avoid conflict over these issues.


For more information on recent developments in China-Japan relations, please see the following news sources:

AFP – “China, Japan hold maritime talks on islands row

BBC – “China and Japan discuss disputed island chain

China Daily – “Chance to show goodwill

The Japan Times – “Beijing cancels Noda-Hu meeting

Wall Street Journal – “China and Japan Fall Out Over Uighurs


For Chinese language commentary on China and Japan’s maritime talks, please see the following news sources:

People’s Daily (人民网) – “中日举行海洋事务高级磋商 中国阐明钓鱼岛立场

People’s Daily (人民网) – “日媒关注中日杭州磋商海洋安保  称要在“鸿沟”中重建信任

Beijing News (新京报网) – “海洋安全磋商中日将谈钓鱼岛


Compiled and edited by Shannon Reed.