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What does this 3 bid mean?

I'm not sure that I've ever seen this sequence at the table.  It featured in a quiz in Contract Bridge Journal in 1947 and I thought that it raised an interesting question of interpretation.  Conditions were not stated but assume MP with neither side vulnerable.  The opponents are playing four-card majors.

W
N
E
S
1
P
1
X
2
3
?

Jack Marx, who set the quiz, commented that 3 was natural since East could have bid 3 unambiguously if he wanted to force his partner to bid.  This is fine so far as it goes but how strong should 3 be?  It also occurred to me that one could use 3 to show values in hearts and invite partner to bid 3NT with a spade guard.  Or even asking for help in hearts (i.e. implying values in spades).

All comments welcome!

Natural and competitive
Natural and invitational
Natural and forcing
Values in hearts
Asking for help in hearts
Something else (please comment)

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