In a change of pace for the Japanese Self Defense Forces, all three branches of its military are participating with US Marines in war games off the coast of California with an emphasis on training the Japanese troops to hold and defend islands from invading forces.

This comes after the controversy that erupted last year between the People’s Republic of China and Japan over Japan’s nationalization of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu island chain.

A remote set of rocks in the Pacific to Japan’s south and slightly north of Taiwan, the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands have become symbolic of China’s growing influence and power in the region as well as the importance of access to resources buried underneath the ocean floor (while the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands are themselves worthless, their sea access rights could be quite profitable indeed).

Japan Ground Self Defense Force troops will attempt beach landings and small-boat raids as well as train for other scenarios related to amphibious warfare. The Japanese forces will utilize Japanese ships to launch their attacks in addition to calling down live fire from its ships at sea. These military exercises have not escaped China’s attention and highlight the US diplomatic shift to an East Asia/Pacific-centric world orientation in global affairs.

The United States and Japan are bound together in a joint-defense treaty in case either is attacked, and it is unlikely that China would actually pursue an aggressive military posture with regard to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands for fear of triggering this reflexive defense alliance; however, one cannot discount the momentum that international events can sometimes assume from nowhere when seemingly local events snowball into cataclysmic international conflagrations (for example, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand prior to World War I, the act that kicked off much of the conflict).

With this in mind, it is not anything other than wise that the US and Japan train for such eventualities, but it cannot be discounted that the mere preparation ratchets up tensions which could boil over into an unwanted reality.