Private-sector dialogue channel delivering joint recommendations to counter current crisis in progress "Japan - China Dialogue on Navigation Safety"

The Japan - China Dialogue on Navigation Safety program began under the partnership between the SPF and Peking University's School of International Studies to explore ways of averting any contingency between the two countries. Some 20 experts in international law, law of the sea, and national security including Prof. Kazuhiro Nakatani of the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Law and Politics and Dr. Wu Shicun, President of China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies, gathered to discuss and compile a report on navigation safety and risk management. The details were explained in the April issue of Progress Now in the article "All eyes on the Japan - China Dialogue on Navigation Safety: Groundwork for resolving the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands issue?" In this issue, we interviewed SPF Chairman Jiro Hanyu about the program's activities after the compilation of the report.

― What is the major significance of this report?

The major significance of this report is that adopting measures contained therein would not affect the two countries' stances on the territorial issue. It provides a discussion table within the framework of their current stances, which is the biggest feature of this "Dialogue". The differences in territorial perception between the Japanese and Chinese governments have hampered any effective inter-governmental talks. While the two countries have had every intention, such talks have never eventuated. In contrast, this is a private-sector initiative. Because of that, we have been able to distance ourselves from the territorial issue and engage in discussions on how to develop mutual trust and achieve risk management under the consensus to prevent unexpected accidents in the disputed territorial waters.
While anyone could think of organizing this type of dialog for finding a solution, no one has ever set up such a venue. There is a major significance in the fact that we were the first to actually organize this forum, and that it has progressed as far as to complete a report.

―Tell us about its future activities now that the report has been completed.

Chairman Hanyu: Both Japanese and Chinese experts are presenting the content of the report to their respective governments and other associated parties. In May 2014, the members held a seminar at the U.S. Brookings Institution. With Brookings Institution's Dr. Richard C. Bush III acting as the MC, the seminar attracted the participation of numerous experts and researchers with a strong interest in East Asian security issues, including those from major U.S. think tanks and universities. The explanation on the Navigation Safety Dialogue program's background, past developments, its recommendations and their aim, was followed by active discussions on how the recommendations could be reflected to government policies. At the University of Tokyo, Prof. Nakatani has also set up a forum of discussions on the report as part of his exchange with China's legal experts, in an effort to promote the report.

―What activities are you planning for this program in the future?

Chairman Hanyu: We plan to hold a meeting in Beijing in as early as September this year to present and explain the content of the report to the officials of the Japan Coast Guard and the China Coast Guard, and if possible, representatives from the two countries' ministries of foreign affairs as well. At the same time, in light of general public interest in the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands issue, there is also a plan to distribute the report to the general public, academics, and journalists to appeal the report's findings to broader communities.
In the skies over the South China Sea, there have been intensifying near-misses between Vietnam and China. Everyone in Japan is feeling the need to establish emergency aviation safety measures. The quickest way to achieve it would be to have the Japanese Ministry of Defense act on it. If this is not possible, it could be explored in this private-sector program, provided that we could gain Chinese cooperation.

The program was launched originally out of the hope that it could be meaningful enough to initiate a private-sector dialogue, if not finding a solution. Yet, Chairman Hanyu says that as the program has progressed on, he began to feel that--even though dialog has its significance--the program facing a specific issue cannot be called a success unless it makes a specific move on the matter. Chairman Hanyu is renewing his resolve to travel anywhere necessary for seminars or other sessions, so as to spread the findings set out in the report compiled by this program.

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