Surface Calm

ITSUO INOUYE / REUTERS

POWER PAIR: Abe, left, greeting Wen in Tokyo on April 11

China is usually the first nation to protest—loudly—any perceived backsliding by Japan on its acceptance of guilt for World War II abuses. Yet, last month, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied Japan's wartime army had forced tens of thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery, igniting an international furor, Beijing stayed conspicuously quiet. China's diplomatic silence was the latest sign of an unexpected thaw in the two nations' often icy relationship.

The change began with Abe's own surprise trip to Beijing last October, which established lines of communication that had been all but ruined by former Prime Minister...

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