From the BBC:
BBC News - China, Japan, South Korea seek trade pactThe trade ministers of China, Japan and South Korea have agreed to step up efforts towards forming a trilateral free trade agreement.
The ministers said that free flow of trade and investment between their countries was key to sustaining growth.
Although it appears that the U.S. has become less convinced of the benefits of trade than had been the case in preceding generations (free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama have yet to be ratified), that less favorable perspective on trade is not shared by all nations. Moreover, what is particularly revealing is that the U.S. has yet to conclude a free trade agreement with Japan despite an enduring favorable bilateral relationship that has existed since the end of World War II.
In general, nations that have growing confidence are willing to take a more expansive view. They seek growth and improvement over the status quo. They are risk takers. They pursue the expansion of trade, understanding that the overall benefits exceed the tradeoffs. They increasingly make strategic investments (education, new industries aimed at addressing unfavorable factor conditions or pursuing emerging opportunities, new technologies, etc.). They seek to shape the balance of power to better align with their interests.
China and South Korea continue to follow that path. Japan, now a mature advanced economy, also sees potential benefits in such a relationship (dynamism, greater market access, increased economic growth, etc.). That Japan is not using the recent catastrophic Tohoku earthquake, ts enormous debt burden, and fierce headwind of a currently declining population to rationalize a more inward-looking course that aims at little more than preserving and harvesting the status quo reveals that contemporary Japan still has a growth-oriented outlook.