Japan, China Resume In-Person Defense Exchanges

Yomiuri Shimbun file photos
From left, The Japanease national flag, The Chinese national flag

BEIJING (Jiji Press) — A team of Japanese Self-Defense Forces officers met with Chinese military-related people Monday, marking the two sides’ first in-person exchange in four years.

The Japanese team had discussions with think tank members linked to the People’s Liberation Army and met with Jing Jianfeng, deputy chief of staff at the Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission.

Air force Lt. Gen. Jing said there still remain severe difficulties between the two countries. He underlined the importance of dialogue, referring to the establishment of a bilateral defense hotline in March.

Maritime SDF Cmdr. Atsushi Yanagita, who leads the Japanese team, said that the team hopes to utilize the visit as an opportunity to better understand the opinions of Chinese military people.

The team arrived in China on Sunday. During its stay until July 24, it will visit the Qingdao base of the navy’s North China Sea Fleet in Shandong Province.

Under the exchange program, which started in 2001 at the initiative of Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a private organization, Japanese and Chinese middle-ranking officers visited each other’s countries.

Exchanges under the program were suspended in 2012, when the two countries’ relations slumped over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which China claims calling them Diaoyu.

The two sides resumed their exchanges in 2018 but had to suspend them again in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.