The same fear of war emerged in the 1990s. But there are a few critical differences: First, the United States is backing all parties in an effort to contain China, but once again it is sending mixed signals that lack diplomatic focus, military strategy or political legitimacy. Second, the Japanese have nationalized the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Third, the new leaders of both China and Japan are more assertive. Japanese hardliners, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are pushing plans to build up a Japanese navy and military.
Unfortunately, it appears too late for the United States to play the role of genuine arbiter, nor does it want to do so. China has openly condemned U.S. actions, but it seems more willing to brush them aside than it might have been in the past.