As China continues to pursue outsized territorial claims throughout Asia, Beijing is also concerned about air and sea miscalculations with Japan, a major U.S. ally.

As such, Beijing and Tokyo have agreed to establish an East China Sea crisis management hotline, which Japanese media described as a “breakthrough” in relations.

The agreement, which has not been made public yet, is formally known as the Japan-China Maritime Communications Mechanism (JCMCM). Negotiations over the agreement took a decade, hampered mostly by disagreements over legal definitions regarding competing territorial claims.

“Japan has demanded that its territorial waters and airspace do not fall within the scope of the mechanism, out of concern that China could take advantage of the deal to strengthen its claim to the islands by interpreting the new framework as giving it a legitimate right to approach them,” Kyodo notes. The agreement reached this week, which has not been made public yet, reportedly satisfies both sides’ legal concerns.

Japan and China both claim the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Currently, Japan administers them but China claims them. In 2012, the Japanese government nationalized the islands to prevent them from being acquired by a hypernationalist politician; since then, they have become a major flashpoint between the two Asian military and economic rivals. [source]

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