Japan mulls expanding air zone: report

 Japan mulls expanding air zone: report

TOKYO - Japan is considering expanding its air defence identification zone in the Pacific Ocean, a report said Wednesday, as Tokyo and Beijing lock horns over Chinese claims to control airspace above the East China Sea.

The defence ministry is also mulling stationing fighter jets at bases in the area, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, without citing sources.

The report comes after China declared de facto control over a swathe of airspace, including above Tokyo-managed islands at the centre of a decades-long dispute between the world's second- and third-largest economies.

It also come after the recent launch by Beijing of its first aircraft carrier, and as the Chinese navy pushes out into the western Pacific. A spokesman at the defence ministry told AFP that the government is "determined to protect Japan's territory... but... we are not in a situation that requires expansion of Japan's ADIZ (Air Defence Identification Zone)."

Japan's ADIZ, which surrounds its four main islands and the southernmost Okinawan island chain, including the islets disputed with China, was established in 1969.

Japan requires flight plans when airplanes fly through the zone only if they are heading for Japanese territory.

The Ogasawara island chain has previously not been thought to be under threat from foreign encroachment, but China's apparent power grab set off discussion among ruling party officials over its inclusion in Japan's ADIZ zone, the Yomiuri said.

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