Shinzo Abe, who has recently returned as Prime Minister of Japan, is to be congratulated for his suggestion that his country’s and China’s dispute over the five uninhabited islands known either as Diaoyu and Senkaku should be “left for future generations.” Mr. Abe belongs to the nationalistic wing of the Liberal-Democratic Party, which makes this moderation a pleasant surprise.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of the Liberal-Democrats’ coalition partner, the Komeito Party, arrived in Beijing with a handwritten letter from Mr. Abe addressed to Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The Komeito Party is pacifist; its core constituency is a Buddhist sect. Mr. Abe would like to amend the pacifist element in the Japanese Constitution; in itself, that would be a good idea, corresponding to Japan’s power and responsibility in the region.
At the moment, however, after months of heightened rhetoric on the islands in question, and some risk that the fighter jets that both countries have sent there might collide, this is an opportune time to send the Komeito leader to China, with a message not of appeasement but in favour of putting the matter on the back burner.
Eventually, there should be an international arbitration over the five small islands, considering the law of the sea and all the relevant historical data. As yet, Japan persists in denying that there is even a dispute; in this respect, China is a little more reasonable, though often shrill.
Hamlet was wrong, in one of his moods, to praise war fought “for an egg-shell,” and to see greatness in finding “quarrel in a straw.” Mr. Abe’s letter, delivered by Mr. Yamaguchi, is a welcome step away from that kind of thinking.