Political and economic stability are essential for Asia to weather the uncertainty created by US President Donald Trump.
India's decision to change the status of the disputed Kashmir region and a trade row between Japan and South Korea bode ill for such hopes. It is especially so for China, which is directly affected by both. But Beijing should see such strife as an opportunity for it to show the world it is a responsible global power able to fairly negotiate peace and trade agreements.
China was quick to turn to diplomacy after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month raised regional tensions by revoking Kashmir's partial autonomy and splitting it into two territories under the direct control of New Delhi. The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers have already visited Beijing for talks and at Pakistan's request, China prodded the United Nations Security Council into an informal discussion.
There is understandable cause for a swift resolution; all three nations are nuclear powers and China and Pakistan have both fought border wars with India and continue to have territorial disputes with it. New Delhi's move could too easily lead to fresh conflict.
India and Pakistan, China's close ally, both claim all of Kashmir, although only control 45 per cent and 35 per cent respectively. The other 20 per cent is in China's Xinjiang region, territory which India claims is the easternmost part of Ladakh, one of the new federal entities it has created. Diplomatic relations and trade between Pakistan and India have been affected; there are concerns that President Xi Jinping's planned visit to India could also be affected. At such times, nations need to talk and Beijing has taken the initiative.
It is also working to end a two-month trade row between Japan and South Korea that has raised doubts about plans for trilateral cooperation, including a summit of the nations' leaders by the end of the year. Historic grievances prompted Tokyo to remove Seoul from a list of preferential trading partners, sparking a downgrading of Japan's trading status and product boycotts.
Beijing, pressured by the trade war with the United States, is eager that Japan and South Korea join it in signing a regional free trade pact. A recent meeting of foreign ministers of the three nations made positive progress. Boosting collaboration on 5G telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence and big data, as Beijing has suggested, could help Tokyo and Seoul ease tensions while offering benefits.
China has been quietly trying to bring peace to the Middle East and Afghanistan. Beijing, as Pyongyang's closest ally, is also crucial to any deal with Washington that brings stability to the Korean peninsula. China can capitalise on Trump's unilateralism by seeing it as an opportunity for diplomacy.
Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.