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Political situation in Japan

Japan, China meet at ASEAN defence talks

Political situation in Japan, satisfied 48%

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The defence ministers of China and Japan have met on the sidelines of a meeting in Hanoi in the first high level contact since a row over a detained fishing boat captain strained ties.

While Japan's defence minister emerged talking about the 'mutually beneficial strategic partnership', China's Xinhua newsagency reported the Chinese minister has lectured his counterpart on behaving properly. But the fact they met at all is a step forward and the meeting itself is another window into the ongoing struggle between the US, China and ASEAN for influence in regional security issues.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Indonesian defence minister; Carl Thayer, professor of politics, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra; Phung Quang Thanh, Vietnamese defence minister


COCHRANE: Getting together the defence ministers of ASEAN, plus China, the US, Australia and New Zealand is no small achievement and one not scheduled to be repeated for another three years.

YUSGIANTORO: We are here, we want to have the perspective of all, then we can bring ASEAN peace and stability, for the regions.

COCHRANE: That's Indonesia's defence minister, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, welcoming his colleagues to the meeting in Hanoi.

The two key issues, according to regional security experts, are the tension between China and Japan over incidents in the East China Sea, as well as the wider struggle over who plays the leading role in regional security matters.

On the first issue - disputes in the East China Sea - there was some movement.

The Chinese and Japanese defence ministers met on the sidelines to the wider ASEAN talks - that's the positive bit - but they took away different versions of how the meeting went.

Japanese minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, told Japanese press the two nations had agreed to set up what he called 'a liaison system' to prevent future maritime disputes in the South China Seas.

Meanwhile, China's official press agency focused on China telling Japan to 'properly handle sensitive issues in bilateral relations'.

Carl Thayer, professor of politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, says that despite the different messages, the meeting is a good sign for diplomacy.

THAYER: It doesn't resolve the disputes, but at least it's a step back from acrimony. But there are still public reports of the Chinese withholding precious metals from Japan, so there's a way to go. But the fact they are talking, I think, is important.

COCHRANE: While it's been tensions in the East China Sea that have flared recently, disputes over the ownership of islands in the South China Sea are an ongoing diplomatic and security issue.

ASEAN and China signed a Code of Conduct agreement in 2002, covering the South China Seas, but Carl Thayer says so far its working group has delivered very little in the way of progress on the long running South China Sea disputes.

THAYER: But in light of interventions by US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, at the last ASEAN Regional Forum meeting, this group has been revived and it may be the short circuit to prevent great powers from intervening in this.




October 12, 2010

Read more: www.radioaustralia.net.au


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