After a gap of eight years, China and Japan, the world's second and third largest economies, have come together to hold a high-level economic dialogue that was stalled over the South China Sea row. The trigger is, of course, the unilateral trade barriers declared by the US against China and the latter's retaliation.
China moves closer to Japan or India every time there is a threat perception from the US, directly or indirectly. The present dialogue between Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Tokyo on Sunday was held in an environment of an aggressive trade policy being pursued by the Trump Administration.
China has offered Japan to improve bilateral relations, work on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and asked Tokyo to participate in its "One Belt, One Road" initiative, which India has shunned. The road ahead for China has been narrowed down with other two Asian giants -- Japan and India in the last one decade owing to the Senkaku islands controversy with Japan and the border row with India.
Japanese Foreign Minister Kono, after the bilateral dialogue, said Japan would work closely with China toward achieving North Korea's denuclearisation. "I want Japan and China to coordinate more toward our shared goal of North Korea's complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearisation," said Kono, keeping an eye on the upcoming summit meeting between South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, and US President Donald Trump.
Beyond North Korea, the true challenge for China has come in the guise of a trade war declared by the Trump Administration and Beijing's knee-jerk retaliation. Japan is a veteran in facing such recurrent trade war issues with the US ever since the mid-1970s when its silk fabrics faced import barriers first. Whether Japanese car imports or engineering goods, it had been a long way for Tokyo to overcome the off-and-on trade rift with Washington.
More than the North Korean crisis, the bilateral dialogue between China and Japan should serve the same purpose that the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's visit to China did last month ahead of Trump's summit with the Korean leaders scheduled in May. China has shown the world its true control over Pyongyang's ambitious nuclear or denuclearisation plan.
Similarly, Japan has been unwittingly pushed to the centre-stage in Asia, with the US unleashing the trade war on Beijing and bringing in more Asian players in the near future. More than China or India, the traditional Asian economic giant Japan will play a key role if the trade row turns ugly.
The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the US tomorrow (Tuesday, 17 April) is all set to take a crucial turn as both leaders are set to discuss North Korea's denuclearisation, to begin with, and end it on a tricky note of harsh US trade barriers.