The United States is siding with Japan in a dispute with China that's brewing over historical and territorial issues,.. and the bi-annual Western Pacific Naval Symposium next month is shaping up as centear stage.
China has invited all participating nations to take part in an international fleet review where they can parade their ships, with one exception: Japan.
Washington has said no American ships will sail if no Japanese ships do.
This is not the first time the U.S. has been drawn into the escalating diplomatic row between Japan and China.
Late last year, China sparked a trans-Pacific uproar by declaring an air defense identification zone, giving itself the right to identify and take military action against aircraft near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Island, which is also claimed by China.
Washington defied Beijing by sending military planes into the zone unannounced.
In another sign of support for Japan, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomed Tokyo's push for collective self-defense by altering its war-renouncing constitution.
Hagel said Sunday in Tokyo that Japan was playing a proactive role in contributing to global and regional peace and stability.
Whether Hagel will address the fleet review issue during his visit in Beijing remains unclear, but experts say China may not want Japanese warships in its waters because of Japan's occupation of China during the Second World War.
Amid the regional spat, South Korea, a country also mired in a diplomatic dispute with Japan, is tightening its bond with China.
According to sources Monday, Seoul's Financial Supervisory Service Governor Choi Soo-hyun met his Chinese counterpart in Beijing last week and agreed to bolster financial cooperation.
In the past, South Korea had maintained closer economic ties with Japan.
The two neighbors will also conduct a joint study of Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of women through historical documents preserved in China.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.