Why Shinzo Abe stopped prodding Beijing on the South China Sea

During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila this week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was careful not to mention disputes in the South China Sea, while Chinese leaders called for both countries to build on the positive momentum.
Chinese analysts said tensions appeared to be easing between the two neighbours amid the threat from North Korea but China would wait to see if Tokyo’s pleasantries would be translated into Beijing-friendly policies.
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Abe has repeatedly raised the South China Sea issue during his last five years in office – much to Beijing’s irritation – so his silence this week was a marked contrast to the past.
Japan does not lay claim to the contested waters but various claimants including the Philippines and Vietnam have moved closer to Tokyo in recent years to counterbalance China.
Wrapping up his trip in Manila, Abe said both China and Japan would move their relations to a new level and leaders of the two nations should visit each other next year.