Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou, Japanese Senior Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeo Mori and other senior officials from China and Japan will hold talks in Beijing today. These talks precede a potential summit of Chinese President Xi and Japanese PM Abe in June.
Officials are expected to discuss a sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, which are located in the East China Sea. The uninhabited islands, consisting of just seven square kilometres of land, have been under Japanese control since 1971, although they were officially annexed by Tokyo in 1895. However, China insists it has a rightful historical claim to the islands dating back to the 12th century, a claim that is historically plausible.
Strategically, the islands are significant because they are close to important shipping lanes and offer rich fishing grounds, as well as potential oil and gas reserves. They are also located about 350 kilometres northeast of Taiwan, a possible tactical naval waypoint for Chinese ships.
It is unlikely the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute will be solved today amid no new major developments. While broader Sino-Japanese relations have improved markedly since five years ago, they remain strained due to strategic competition, as evidenced by the island dispute. Ahead of a potential second Xi-Abe summit, note if China and Japan use their economic cooperation to foster collaboration regarding maritime issues as well.
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Nick is the Director of the Daily Brief and a contributing Senior Analyst to it. An attorney, his areas of expertise include international law, international and domestic criminal law, security affairs in Europe and the Middle East, and human rights.