TOKYO -- Japan will seek to conclude a pact with China by the end of this year on maritime search and rescue cooperation, government sources said on Saturday.
Japan hopes to reach the agreement during a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, that is expected to be held in Tokyo in early December, the sources said.
Movement toward a pact comes despite simmering tensions in the East China Sea between the two neighbors over the Senkaku Islands, called the Diaoyu Islands in China, as well as China's gas field development activities.
Japan believes a cooperation pact would help prevent any accidents involving civilian vessels such as fishing boats and passenger ships, especially in the East China Sea, from further deteriorating bilateral relations.
The proposed pact would be based on the 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue. Japan has concluded similar pacts with the U.S., Russia and South Korea.
The pact would call for cooperation between Japan and China in maritime rescue and search operations, increased liaison between them and joint training exercises, among other things.
In 2011, Japan and China reached a broad agreement to conclude a maritime search and rescue cooperation pact. But no progress has since been made, partly due to increased tensions following Japan's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, in Okinawa Prefecture.