Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Saturday expressed concern that tension will rise in the West Philippine Sea if China imposes another air defense identification zone (ADIZ) there.

“China’s unilateral action to change the status quo by force or coercive action will bring back tension in this region,” Onodera said in a press briefing after meeting with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Onodera, who is on a two-day visit to the country, made the remark after saying that he’s received reports that China is considering establishing another ADIZ in the West Philippine Sea.

Onodera said he told Gazmin that Japan and the US have been “firmly and calmly” continuing patrols and surveillance in the East China Sea even after China put up an ADIZ.

The Chinese government imposed last month an ADIZ over the East China Sea, covering a group of islets claimed by both China and Japan.

China demands that all countries with aircraft passing through the zone submit flight plans, or face “defensive measures.”

“This significantly violates the spirit of the international treaty of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization),” Onodera said.

The islets, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, have been at the center of the two countries’ territorial dispute for decades. They are presently under Japan’s administrative control.

China and the Philippines have a similar dispute in the West Philippine Sea, where the Spratly Islands are located.

The Spratlys, a group of islands and shoals sitting on top of what is believed to be a huge oil and gas deposit, are manned by military forces of the two countries and other claimants like Vietnam and Taiwan. (John Roson)

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