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Pivots in Asia
Changing Partners in Northeast Asia

China is sending pandas to South Korea, and North Korea is making nice with Japan. It’s quite a moment for Northeast Asian diplomacy.

Everybody is getting political benefits. Chinese Presient Xi Jinping’s move towards Seoul is smart diplomacy. Swapping ugly, barren and ungrateful North Korea for a better relationship with Seoul could split South Korea away from the U.S. over time, while boosting China’s trade. It also scores China points in the U.S.

For Seoul, reducing the danger from the north and possibly opening up a road to reunification with Chinese support is a big plus, to say nothing of better trade relations.

For Pyongyang, reaching out to Japan warns China that it had better not go too far.

For Abe, better relations with North Korea in general and the deal on the missing persons soften his public image at home. The Japanese public cares deeply about the citizens said to have been kidnapped by North Korean agents during the 70s and 80s, and Pyongyang has agreed to reinvestigate the abductions.

Win, win, win, win. But that doesn’t necessarily make Northeast Asia any safer.

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