Whether Japan is truly seeking regional peace and security or just fishing in the troubled waters by increasing military presence in the South China Sea is not a hard question to answer.
Japan will expand its presence in the South China Sea by conducting "joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy and bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional navies", its Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said in a speech Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
This is to support the U.S. freedom-of-navigation operations for maintaining international maritime order, she said ahead of her first meeting with Pentagon chief Ash Carter.
As keeping maritime order in the South China Sea is a shared duty of the region's coastal states, the huge interest an outsider like Japan has shown in following in the footsteps of the United States can hardly be justified.
Japan is in dispute with China over the Diaoyu Island in the East China Sea. That is where its true and major purpose lies, as revealed in the very same speech Inada made. Japan is meanwhile seeking a "candid discussion" with Beijing, said the newly appointed defense chief of Japan.
Apparently, Japan is making catspaw out of the South China Sea issue to secure more bargaining chips at its own negotiating table, rather than pursue regional peace and stability.
Showing military muscles is the latest among a series of moves Japan has been stepping up in order to fish in the troubled waters of the South China Sea issue.
It is noticeable that Inada's remarks came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe failed to incite members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the Sept. 6-9 East Asian Leaders' meetings to attack China.
It is absurd that Japan thinks it knows better than the concerned parties how to defend their own interests while they obviously prefer to manage or resolve differences through peaceful talks.
On this issue, Japan has left no stone unturned in stirring up the waters to cause tensions, with, for instance, its recent plan to cheaply sell arms to India in return for the latter's voice against China.
Japan is "continually examining if what we are doing is sufficient" to maintain stability and security in the Pacific, Inada told the Washington audience.
Analysts find the remarks hardly convincing as Japan still refuses to face squarely its history and atrocities during World War II, and that its government is seeking to amend the country's pacifist postwar constitution.
In fact, any military moves of Japan would quickly remind its neighbors of their war-time sufferings. So did the appointment to the defense post in early August of the 57-year-old Inada, who previously attracted attention for questioning mainstream accounts of Japanese war atrocities and the fairness of the postwar Tokyo war crimes trials.
As regards Japan's attempt to amend its postwar constitution, increasing its military engagement in the South China Sea also serves as an exchange for Washington's support for Tokyo.
However, it remains questionable if Japan can really let go the memory of the atomic bombs the United States dropped on it in 1945, and if the United States is ready to leave behind its painful memory of Japan's surprise attack on the Pearl Harbor in 1937 that triggered the Pacific War.