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Why China, Japan, and S. Korea aren't backing down on island disputes (+video)

Fired up by increasingly nationalist politics at home, China, Japan, and S. Korea are reluctant to be seen as backing down on the issue of sovereignty.

Japan ready for dispute with China over islands
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The territorial disputes in Southeast Asia are becoming increasingly bitter between leading economic and military powers China, Japan, and South Korea.

At the center of the dispute between China and Japan are the Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese, an uninhabited outcrop of rocks that lie in the middle of rich fishing grounds and potentially richer oil and gas deposits.

On Tuesday, Japan's national government signed a contract to buy the islands for 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) from the Japanese family who has been leasing them to the government. While in Japan this is seen as an attempt to head off a plan by Tokyo’s controversial nationalist Gov. Shintaro Ishihara to take control of the disputed isles, China reacted angrily and immediately dispatched patrol boats to the nearby waters, in a significant escalation to the standoff. 

Fired up by increasingly assertive publics and local politicians at home, all three country’s leaders – especially China and Japan – are reluctant to be perceived as backing down on this issue at the end of their premierships. Seen together, say analysts, they could spell greater trouble for the region. 

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