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The long simmering territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands has led to increasingly nationalistic and aggressive stances in both China and Japan. While the situation may not escalate into open conflict, tensions may spill over into and be played out in the two countries’ engagement with countries in South-East Asia.

The US’s continued preoccupation with the Middle East and its own internal challenges will feed perceptions of a power vacuum in the region – which both China and Japan will seek to fill – but it will continue to play a delicate role in regional geopolitics, as it has consistently emphasised freedom of navigation and maritime security in the South China Sea and is a treaty partner of Japan and the Philippines.


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