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Are China and Japan establishing their own version of the Moscow-Washington hotline that became a symbol of Cold War tensions?

FT reports that Tokyo and Beijing have agreed to set up a bilateral military hotline after a meeting between the Japanese defense minister and his Chinese counterpart.

The Japanese defence ministry said the governments agreed to set up the link by the end of 2022 during a two-hour phone call on Monday between Nobuo Kishi, defence minister, and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe.

The decision was made to improve the effectiveness of maritime and aerial communications between the two neighboring powers.

The ministers agreed on the “timely establishment” of a hotline between the two militaries, the Japanese defence ministry said, in order to improve the effectiveness of the maritime and aerial communication mechanism, a system established in 2018 to avert unintended clashes.

In a statement, the Chinese Defense Ministry didn’t directly mention a bilateral hot line.

The Chinese defence ministry did not directly mention a hotline, but said there was a need for strengthening liaison and communication between the defence ministries. They should “strengthen high-level exchanges and practical co-operation, further expand the content of the sea and air liaison mechanism, jointly control risks, prevent the escalation of conflicts and continuously improve the level of defence co-operation”, Wei said, according to the Chinese defence ministry.

Japan’s defense minister said there’s an increasing need for emergency communications between the two due to China’s increasingly threatening posture toward Taiwan. Japan views peace in the Taiwan Strait as critical to its “peace and security.”

Japan and the US both support Taiwan’s de facto independence, even as Beijing has always considered Taiwan as part of the “one China”. The “one China” policy dominated relations between China and the US for decades until the arrival of President Trump, who ratcheted up tensions with President Xi Jinping.

China and Japan have been talking about the possibility of installing an emergency hotline for more than a decade. The two sides agreed to set one up back in 2007 but nothing was ever done. China already has a military hotline for any crises communications with the US.

One expert who spoke to the FT said relations between the two powers have thawed since Japanese PM Fumio Kishida was elevated to lead the government. Still, it’s unclear how long this “thaw” might last.


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