Japan’s navy chief to China: Our door is open to improving relations
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 28, 2016
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan’s navy chief hopes to resume port visits and the exchange of high-level officials with China as soon as possible in an attempt to assuage rising tensions in the Asia-Pacific.
The comments were made Monday by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force chief of staff Adm. Tomohisa Takei at the 22nd International Seapower Symposium hosted by the National Bureau of Asian Research in Washington D.C., a JMSDF spokesman said.
“Resuming personnel exchanges, including high-level officials and port visits between Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and Chinese navy, which have been suspended for several years, will contribute to improve relations between both countries,” Takei said, according to the spokesman. “It should be resumed as soon as possible. Our door is open.”
It was not immediately clear whether the Chinese would take him up on the offer. Japan last docked a naval vessel in China in 2011, the spokesman said. China last docked a military vessel in Japan in 2009. A JMSDF chief of staff last visited China in 2014.
Takei’s public overture comes at a time when tensions remain high in the East China Sea. Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force scrambled jets Sunday to intercept eight Chinese military aircraft flying between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Island.
Takei expressed concern over China expanding its operations in the area surrounding the resource-rich Senkaku island chain, which are claimed by both nations. He said their activities could provoke a crisis.
“For maritime safety and security, cooperation among nations are indispensable,” he said.
Takei’s comments mirror the policy of engagement observed by the United States. China has been invited in recent years to participate as an observer in Rim of the Pacific exercises off the coast of Hawaii, and the U.S. and China regularly exchange high-level officials and host port visits.