Monday, November 30, 2009

China receives a big Christmas gift from Japan

China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie visited the Japanese DDG-176 Aegis destroyer Chokai of Japanese maritime self-defense force (MSDF) November 30 in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. The Aegis destroyer Chokai is capable of launching SM-3 Block 1A missiles to intercept incoming ballistic missiles. Liang arrived in Tokyo on November 26 to carry out a five-day visit.

Liang’s visit on the Aegis ship marks a significant change of Japanese policy to China, since Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) defeated Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in August 2009 in the general election of Japan. Before Liang’s visit, Japanese Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told clearly to Chinese media that he did not think China is a threat to Japan.

According to the Japanese media and the MSDF of Japan, U.S. military officials accompanied Liang when he boarded the Japanese Aegis destroyer Chokai. Although the scope of this visit was limited, including the air defense system developed by the U.S., this is the first time a Chinese high level military official was invited to board an Aegis equipped destroyer in Japan. In 2008, Chinese Navy Commander Wu Shengli only boarded a Japanese frigate at Yokosuka base in Japan during his trip there.

Nov. 27th, Kitazawa and Liang reached a nine-item consensus and jointly issued a news bulletin, which includes that Kitazawa will visit China during 2010 as Japanese defense minister; The chief of staff of Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and the training fleet of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will also visit China in 2010; The exchanges will start between the military regions of People’s Liberation Army and the aspect-teams of Japanese Self-Defense Forces; Two countries will hold a joint maritime search and rescue training exercise at a proper time, etc.

It is remarkable that Kitazawa only took office with his party DPJ for two months, but he has already taken joint efforts with the Chinese side on pushing the two countries’ defense exchanges into an unprecedented level. Whether recent trend will be affected by Japan’s relationships with U.S. and Taiwan, we have to observe continuously. But, at least, Japan has presented a good gift to China for the Merry Christmas 2009.