China and Japan have agreed to greater communication between their defense officials, and have made progress in building an air and maritime contact mechanism, with experts saying that China's military and law-enforcement presence in the region contributed to the negotiations.
The agreement was reached during the eighth round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs between various government departments from the two countries, held from Tuesday and Wednesday in Shanghai, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.
They agreed to expand information exchanges to jointly crack down on transnational crimes such as smuggling and drug trafficking. They also agreed to hold a meeting of experts to discuss marine garbage in 2018.
"The agreement reached by both sides shows a recovery in China-Japan ties," Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations, told the Global Times.
This meeting happens regularly, regardless of the status of bilateral ties. But the latest agreement shows both sides are committed to repairing ties, Chu said.
The seventh round of consultations was held in Fukuoka, Japan in June.
The two sides pledged closer cooperation in maritime search and rescue operations as well as in marine geology. Both countries also exchanged views on the East China Sea issue and agreed to hold the ninth round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs in Japan in the first half of next year, Xinhua reported.
"This time, the two countries' relevant authorities are all sitting together in a big group meeting. In the future, more detailed negotiations between specific authorities will take place separately, such as a dialogue between both sides' government departments on fisheries or environmental protection," Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times.
A statement from the Chinese defense ministry said about 19 government departments from both sides, including the ministries of foreign affairs, defenses, environmental protection, and transport and public security, have participated in the consultations.
However, it doesn't mean that the friction and engagement between China's and Japan's military or law-enforcement units in the East China Sea will be reduced, Song added.
"Due to China's regular air and sea presence, the engagement will only increase, but the agreement that we have reached with the Japanese government can reduce the risk of an accidental conflict caused by miscalculations."