2013 edition clarifies the meaning of -P outside of -R context, mainly
cp [-Pfip] source_file target_file
cp [-Pfip] source_file... target
If the -R option was not specified, cp shall take actions based on the type and contents of the file referenced by the symbolic link, and not by the symbolic link itself, unless the -P option was specified.
Note, in GNU cp -P (--no-dereference) always worked outside of -R (--recursive).