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Dialogue suggests China, Japan can find a way out of impasse

China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-31 06:38

That Beijing and Tokyo both underlined the need to take each other as a potential partner rather than a threat was an important outcome of their just concluded fourth high-level political dialogue.

Amid their seemingly endless impasse, that both sides have taken note of the damaging potential of mutual distrust and aspire to improve bilateral relations represents a step toward breaking the deadlock.

Many are accustomed to attributing the troubled bilateral ties to Japan's inability to adapt to the new reality of a rising China. But Beijing, too, is in the process trying to figure out what is the best approach to its growing impacts on regional and global affairs and the outside perceptions of them. In that sense, how Beijing and Tokyo see and approach each other will to a great extent determine the geopolitical landscape of Northeast Asia, if not the entire Asia-Pacific.

As everybody knows, there is a long shadow of history that prevents the countries from getting really close, especially under the current leadership in Japan which is unwilling to let the past rest in peace. But that does not mean there is no way out.

The generally warm relationship between Beijing and Tokyo since the normalization of diplomatic ties, which existed until a few years ago, is telling proof that there are ways to prevent the specter of the past from haunting ties. Even if the past cannot be completely laid to rest, properly managing divergences may at least release some positive energy to restore some warmth into bilateral ties.

But despite Beijing and Tokyo claiming a shared commitment to regional peace and stability, as well as good global governance, there has been no indication they are willing or able to collaborate.

More often than not, Beijing has found Tokyo working against it, whether that is Tokyo's ongoing endeavors to resurrect the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement or its putting what are regional maritime issues on broader international agendas.

Relations between the two countries are at an important juncture, and experience shows ties can escape the dark shadows of the past with the joint efforts of people with vision in the two countries, and in so doing bring tangible benefits to the two nations and both peoples.

To build on the positive signals that have emerged from Monday's dialogue, the two sides should remind themselves of their original intention for normalizing ties, and pursue the continuous enhancement of bilateral relations based on the four political documents and the four-point agreement reached between them. In this way, the outstanding challenges can be overcome and new opportunities seized.

 

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