China's defense minister has arrived to Japan for a five-day visit on Wednesday. It’s a first such visit in nearly a decade and a sign of warming relations despite concerns in Tokyo over rising Chinese military spending.
Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan will inspect and address Japan's self-defense troops, and meet his Japanese counterpart Masahiko Komura to discuss bolstering defense cooperation, according to Japan's Defense Ministry.
Cao and Komura will consider setting up a defense hot line to bolster communication between the countries' militaries, as well as reciprocal port calls by navy ships, the ministry said.
Cao's trip, the first to Japan by China's top defense official since former defense chief Chi Haotian visited Tokyo in February 1998, comes amid closer ties between the regional powers.
Tokyo's relations with Beijing have been improving under Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who traveled to China immediately after taking office last year in a bid to reverse a steep decline in ties during the term of his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.
Koizumi enraged Chinese officials by repeatedly praying at a Tokyo war shrine with close links to Japan's past militarism. Beijing said the visits to the shrine, which honors executed war criminals among Japan's war dead, showed Japan had not fully atoned for its brutal occupation of China in the 20th century.
Meanwhile, China's double-digit spending increases for its 2.5 million-member military nearly every year since the early 1990s has raised concern in Tokyo.
Japan's Defense Ministry lists Chinese military expansion as a top security concern in the region, and top Japanese officials have called its neighbor a threat, drawing angry rebukes from Beijing.
A news report said earlier this year that Tokyo plans to build a new electromagnetic surveillance facility to monitor Chinese military activity in the waters between the two countries.