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Five years after the government nationalized the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture by purchasing three of the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, Japan’s relationship with China has yet to be restored to what it was before the dispute deepened over the Senkakus — over which Beijing also claims sovereignty. The move at one point sent bilateral ties plummeting to their worst level since the two governments normalized diplomatic relations in 1972. Signs are growing, however, that both sides are seeking to improve their chilly relations. Tokyo and Beijing should seize on the momentum to rebuild ties by setting aside their differences over the Senkaku dispute.

In his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany in July, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan is ready to cooperate with Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” cross-continental infrastructure development initiative under certain conditions, reversing Tokyo’s earlier caution toward the project. Both Abe and Xi reportedly agreed on the need to improve bilateral ties. Last Friday, a ceremony commemorating the 45th anniversary of the 1972 normalization of relations was held in Beijing — after the event to mark the 40th anniversary five years ago was canceled due to the Chinese backlash against the Japanese move on the disputed islets.

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