Rivals have the right instincts

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Rivals have the right instincts

China and Japan snapped a six-year-long standoff and warmed up to one another, as they both face trade pressure from the United States. During his visit to China, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Le Keqiang. They signed a host of agreements, from a currency swap and free trade negotiations to undersea developments.

The world’s second and third biggest economies vowed to upgrade their bilateral relationship from a competitive one to a “cooperative” level to become partners and not threats to one another, and form an alliance against their common trade challenge from the United States.

Abe took the largest-ever economic entourage of hundreds of businessmen for his first state visit to China. Tokyo and Beijing put aside their decades-old territorial dispute over uninhibited islets in the East China Sea to turn the zone into a “sea of peace, cooperation, and friendship” and pursue joint gas exploitation in the area.

They built on their currency swap deal that ended in 2013. They agreed to make it bigger by 10-fold to allow the two governments to exchange up to $30 billion worth of each others’ currencies in times of emergency. They vowed to invest jointly in smart city development in Thailand and infrastructure development in other Southeast Asian countries as well as Africa.

In a forum, companies from the two countries signed 50 business deals. They decided to collaborate on separate expansionist economic projects – China’s One Belt, One Road and Japan’s India-Pacific initiative.

The two historical rivals have come together for a forward-looking relationship all thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump. With his all-out trade offensive, Trump has pushed the two to forge a strategic truce. In September last year, Abe attended China’s Foundation Day celebration at the Chinese embassy in Tokyo. It was the first time in 15 years for a Japanese prime minister to attend. China’s premier paid a visit to Japan’s Emperor Akihito in May to mend ties.

The practical partnership between the world’s two largest economies after the United States has huge repercussions. Seoul also should read global trends with cool-headedness and seek practicality in diplomacy. Korea may be neglecting and missing important opportunities because it is too engrossed in inter-Korean affairs.

JoongAng Sunday, Oct. 27, Page 34
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