The Senkakus Islands off the coast of Japan have become a point of contention that may draw the U.S and Japan into war with China in 2013.

According to reports, the islands are claimed by both Japan and China — China calls them the Diaoyu Islands — and the tensions over them are so great that Japan’s incoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has suspended the stationing of Japanese officials on the islands in order to stave off further conflict.

While there has been no explicit explanation for the focus on the islands, it is believed China has seized on them as a way to push back against growing U.S. involvement in Asia. To this end, China’s goal may be to drive a wedge between Tokyo and the Obama administration and get the U.S. to pressure Tokyo into giving up claim to the islands.

There seems to be an underlying belief on China’s part that if they keep pushing, the U.S. will eventually buckle and ask Japan to join them in capitulating.

And while a spectator to these events may be surprised at the audaciousness of China, others believe China is simply using the leverage they’ve created by nurturing an economic environment that makes it difficult for the U.S. to buck Beijing.

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