A defense hotline between Japan and China is likely to start operating around next spring, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tuesday, as the two Asian powers have been at odds over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea.

Operating the hotline between Japanese and Chinese defense authorities will "play an extremely important role in building confidence and avoiding unexpected contingencies," Hayashi told a press conference.

"We will continue discussions with the Chinese side toward the realization" of the hotline, Hayashi said.

His remarks came after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed during their meeting in Bangkok earlier this month on an early start of the hotline, as Sino-Japanese ties have frayed over a territorial row.

The first summit by the two Asian countries in almost three years took place on the fringes of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit.

Japan and China launched the Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism in 2018 to avoid accidental clashes at sea and in the air, but they have made little progress on the hotline.

In recent years, Japan has protested repeated intrusions by Chinese coast guard ships into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, which calls the uninhabited islets Diaoyu.