China and Japan are poised to launch a formal mechanism to manage local maritime and aerial crises, a former Chinese defense official said Monday, the eve of the opening of a key political session in the country.[Special coverage]
The mechanism, agreed upon in June 2012 but shelved amid peaking territorial disputes between China and Japan, will be launched "soon" so long as Japan does not create new obstacles to the improvement of bilateral relations, said Qian Lihua, a political advisor and general who used to head the foreign affairs office under the Ministry of National Defense.
Interviewed by Xinhua, he said that defense departments of the two sides reached consensus on various aspects of the mechanism in January, including reaffirming previous agreements. They agreed to change the system's name from "maritime liaison mechanism" to "maritime and aerial liaison mechanism."
The basic technical conditions for launching it have been met and China and Japan have agreed to go ahead as soon as possible, according to Qian, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, whose annual session opens Tuesday.
However, the Chinese general also expressed concern about Japan's recent conduct and political developments.
He attributed the stalling of the crisis management mechanism since 2012 to the Japanese government's "illegal purchase" of part of the Diaoyu Islands.
"We are very worried about Japan's political orientation," Qian said. "The country now stands at a crossroads of whether to maintain its pacifist constitution or revive militarism."
"We will be watching closely when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers his statement on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War," he added.
China-Japan relations will take another hit if Abe denies history or backtracks on previous statements made by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi, who apologized for Japan's colonial rule and aggression, according to Qian.
He called on Japan to abide by its commitments, including a diplomatic agreement reached with China late last year, and to take substantial measures to improve bilateral relations.
In November, China and Japan signed a four-point agreement to ease their tensions, including through resuming political, diplomatic and security dialogues while acknowledging different positions on the Diaoyu Islands.