Will Japan assert its own vision for East Asia, or will it continue simply to react to China? That will be the biggest question in 2014 for Tokyo as tensions with Beijing continue to mount.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to beef up military spending and enhance its longer-term security is a game-changer for the region, and while there is a chance the move will strengthen bilateral relations between Japan and the United States, it is unclear how this will impact Tokyo’s relations with Beijing. Whatever happens, though, there can be little doubt that tensions over the disputed islands in the East China Sea will remain in the headlines this year – and the reality is that there is no easy solution to the dispute over who owns what Japan calls the Senkakus and China the Diaoyu Islands.

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