There is speculation that quiet diplomacy may lead to a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China's President Xi Jinping. Certainly there are good reasons to expect no meeting of minds on some crucial issues that divide the two nations, but these need not prevent their leaders sitting down together to talk.

Both countries have too much at stake to allow the territorial row over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands to derail broader bilateral relations. But because Abe claims his door is open to dialogue — while slamming it shut on acknowledging there is a territorial dispute — skeptics downplay the possibility of a summit.

Surely, though, there are ways in which this can be overcome while allowing both sides to save face — and after all, that's the kind of thing diplomats get paid for. Simply, both sides could agree to disagree on the "territorial problem," shift it to the back burner, and move on to other critical, substantive problems.