Wary optimism in South China Sea | Bangkok Post: opinion

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Wary optimism in South China Sea

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  • Newspaper section: News
  • Writer: James Manicom
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There has recently been a flurry of diplomatic activity between China and Japan that reflects the first positive turn in their maritime relationship since Japan nationalised the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in September last year. 

Late last month, New Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo was dispatched to Beijing with a letter for Chinese leaders from Shinzo Abe, Japan's recently elected prime minister. Former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan, current head of the China-Japan Friendship Association, used that opportunity to invite a Japanese delegation to Beijing, led by former prime minister Murayama Tomiichi, which included current LDP deputy secretary-general Gen Nakatani . These visits have led to speculation that both Mr Abe and Xi Jinping have expressed interest in a leadership summit.

While it is premature to suggest that these signs indicate a meaningful effort to cooperate, particularly as both parties continue to engage in brinksmanship at sea, these overtures are not unprecedented nor unexpected. It has long been a fact that cooperation follows confrontation in Sino-Japanese maritime relations.

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