Reef knots

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IT IS not just towards Taiwan that China has been showing a friendlier face. Recent days have seen a flurry of high-level diplomacy that has helped calm some of its many other quarrels in Asia. China’s president, Xi Jinping, has paid a rare state visit to Vietnam, despite continuing tensions over competing claims in the South China Sea. And China has taken further steps to normalise relations with Japan, fraught for the past five years over disputed islands and a long-running row about Japan’s view of its own history.

The overture to Vietnam is perhaps the more surprising, given recent developments. Like other claimants in the region, notably the Philippines, Vietnam has been angered by the breakneck pace of Chinese land reclamation around rocks and reefs in the sea. When, late last month, America sent a naval destroyer close to one of those reefs to assert “freedom of navigation”, Vietnam did not publicly cheer, as the Philippines did. But it was undoubtedly pleased. China, for its part, fulminated against the American “threat”, and held live-fire military exercises in the sea. But its reaction, though shrill, was formulaic. It seems reluctant to provoke a showdown with the United States.

Read more: http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21678002-no-more-mr-nasty-guy-china-tries-be-nice-reef-knots

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