China / Government

Scholar unveils bold plan to rebuild trust

By Zhang Yunbi in Tokyo (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-30 07:42

Major General Zhu Chenghu, a professor at China's National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, surprised his Japanese counterparts at a symposium over the weekend when he proposed a bold 25-step plan for rebuilding trust between the two defense authorities.

Pessimism clouds the military-to-military relationship between the two largest economies in Asia after a dispute flared over China's Diaoyu Islands in 2012.

The number of high-level official encounters has dropped drastically and observers worry that regional stability could be undermined by frequent bickering between the two defense ministries over friction in the East China Sea and even in international waters en route to the Pacific Ocean.

Zhu's wish list, unveiled at the security panel of the 10th Beijing-Tokyo forum on Sunday, covers phases of trust-building between the neighbors, who have shown concern about each nation's strategy for national defense building.

The senior military scholar sketched out a roadmap of mechanisms, covering search and rescue, maritime and airspace codes of conduct, hotlines between combat units and joint patrols in the western Pacific Ocean.

"Some of the items on the list may not be defined as directly connected to security practices, but they are conducive to ensuring maritime security. I believe the sea in between will be safer if they are turned into reality," Zhu said.

Yuji Miyamoto, a former Japanese ambassador to China, told Zhu that the Japanese panelists expect the 25-point proposal "will be presented in a written form in the future".

The detailed plan for exchanges matters "because accumulating trust bit by bit is necessary", Miyamoto said.

The efforts proposed by Zhu include bilateral seminars on defense policies, a mechanism of informing each other of major military operations, discussions on outer space security and cybersecurity and exchanges of teachers and students from defense colleges.

"Dispatching military teaching officials and international students to Japan will be conducive to establishing contacts and relationships between professional soldiers," he said.

After initiating faculty exchanges, "the friendship between military personnel will be favorable for eliminating divergence and averting conflicts when major problems come to cloud the overall China-Japan relationship", Zhu said.

Hideaki Kaneda, a former vice-admiral of Japan's Defense Forces and now director of the nonprofit think tank Okazaki Institute, said Zhu's blueprint is correct, but doubts remain whether Japan-China military-to-military interaction can evolve into an intimacy that "compares with the traditional US-Japan military alliance".

Kaneda said the blueprint should be categorized in several levels before being put into practice, and it is unlikely all 25 items will be achieved overnight.

Zhu also urged the Japanese defense authority to stop its frequent hostile plane reconnaissance and its stalking of similar Chinese flights.

In late May, Japan accused Chinese fighter jets of "unusually approaching Japanese reconnaissance aircraft". Beijing and Tokyo traded barbs after Japan countered with a similar accusation, to which the Chinese Ministry of National Defense provided video footage on its website.

"It would be unfair if Japan conducted hostile reconnaissance against China while defying and even demonizing China's effort at blocking such reconnaissance", Zhu said.

Such flights are an "act of explicit hostility" and Japan should decrease and stop such behavior, he said.

Hot Topics