Each time I revisit this topic, I am thinking, perhaps naively, that China, Japan and South Korea, a quarter of the world economy, will soon improve their relations to rev up the rest of the region and beyond. To me, that always looked like an axiomatic proposition that should easily transcend old enmities.
But delegations upon business delegations, millions of tourists and students, and South Korea's popular TV shows, music hits, barbecue delights and beauty products still seem incapable of relieving tensions bedeviling these three economic powerhouses.
Japan's business with China and South Korea is plummeting at the time when Tokyo seems at a loss for magic potions to leave behind its decades-long economic stagnation.
And that's part of my perplexity, because the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sounded like the man who knew exactly what he had to do to move on when he took power at the end of 2012. He said then that "China was essential for the growth of the Japanese economy," and that relations with China had to be improved.
Falling exports and weak investments
But the mutual acrimony only got worse. Last Tuesday (August 2), for example, Japan's defense white paper devoted 30 pages to highlight "China's military threat." Predictably, China indignantly rejected the accusation, claiming that this was just a convenient excuse to justify changes to Japan's pacifist constitution and to remilitarize the country.
All the business pleadings have come to naught. Japanese exports to China fell at an annual rate of 9 percent in the first half of this year, tracing out a sharply declining trend of Japanese sales to China since Mr. Abe's emphatic pledge three-and-a-half years ago.