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If World War III ever breaks out, its origins will not lie in the Middle East, South Asia or Eastern Europe. It is in East Asia — where the strategic interests of China, the United States, and their respective partners intersect — that the geopolitical stakes, diplomatic tensions, and potential for a global explosion are highest.

Because it is so obviously in every player’s interest to avoid outright conflict, we have stony handshakes like that between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Beijing in November. But if there is to be a genuinely durable peace, the region’s leaders need to work harder and more courageously to achieve it. Each of them could pursue game-changing initiatives if only they could summon the necessary statesmanship.

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