The recent flap over events surrounding the Diaoyu Islands, as they are known in China, or Senkaku Islands, as they are referred to in Japan, is an example of a controversy that might be solved if the two countries had a permanent dispute resolution center.

The group of islands cover less than three square miles, have no human inhabitants, yet have embroiled the two nations in a serious controversy that has also entangled the U.S.

China and Japan should take a deep breath and consider how the two traditional foes can solve their problems.

A dispute resolution center might become the "first stop shop" when problems arise between Japan and China. In any event, regular channels of communication would be established between the two nations and, if the center is successful, trust would certainly build.

The center could be open to any countries wishing to send representatives to try to work out differences. Japan and China could provide teams of dispute moderators if asked to do so.

Further, any center dedicated to peacefully resolving problems should include an ongoing educational resource where interested individuals would be trained to solve conflicts.

Just as important, the establishment of such a center would send an important message to the West that the leading Asian nations are now prepared to handle their own affairs by themselves. America's "big brother" relationship with both Japan and Taiwan has put a wedge between those two countries and China, and in the long run does not benefit America nor any of the Asian countries. It is time to move beyond a balance of power Cold War mentality in Asia.


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Down the line, China and Japan might develop long-term strategies to help broker resolutions of disputes between other nations.

Because the two countries are often viewed as coming from opposite sides of the fence with regard to international relations, countries would be more likely to trust advice from bipartisan committees from China and Japan than from any individual nation.

There are, of course, already in place organizations such as the United Nations and the World Court dedicated to helping resolve conflict. A China-Japan center would not be intended to supplant those august organizations but merely to serve as an alternative model.

The largest obstacles to overcome in establishing a dispute resolution center are traditional inertia that often leads to saber-rattling but little progress, and historical mistrust between China and Japan. If those blocks can be surmounted both China and Japan would profit.

The world already has a powerful model of two recent bitter enemies becoming fast friends. France and Germany have been able to cast aside differences and build a powerful coalition as leaders of the European Union.

China and Japan share a common and often bitter history. Unfortunately because of the islands dispute, China recently canceled events to commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations with Japan.

However, if the two nations can dig into a little humble pie and establish a bilateral partnership, the two nations' detente would be a beacon to many other nations.

Patrick Mattimore is a fellow at the Institute for Analytic Journalism, an adjunct professor at Tsinghua/Temple Law School LLM Program in Beijing, and teaches test prep courses in Ho Chi Minh City. He is a former Bay Area high school teacher.