China is unlikely to set up an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea in the near future, mainland experts say.
On Friday, the United States warned Beijing against forming a new ADIZ following a report by the Asahi newspaper in Japan that PLA Air Force officials had drafted plans for a zone that could encompass the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands.
"Judging from China's official statements in recent months and its regional strategy, it is unlikely China would set up an ADIZ in the South China Sea and aggravate tension in the region," said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University.
On Friday, US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said any move to set up an ADIZ in the South China Sea would be seen "as a provocative and unilateral act that would raise tensions and call into serious question China's commitment to diplomatically managing territorial disputes".
Citing unnamed sources, including from the central government, the Asahi said air force officials in the People's Liberation Army had drafted proposals for the new zone, which could cover much of the sea and include the Paracel Islands.
Professor Jia Qingguo, of the School of International Studies at Peking University, said the need to set up a zone for the South China Sea was less pressing than for the East China Sea.
Mainland officials have not responded to Asahi's report.
Amid rising tension, a senior Chinese official said yesterday Beijing's relationship with Tokyo was "probably at its worst".
Fu Ying, chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China's National People's Congress, said the government in Beijing would "respond effectively to any provocation".
"Many people are worried," Fu said. "The bilateral relations ... are suffering a lot."
A PLA-affiliated website posted images it said showed Chinese fighter jets on their way to the East China Sea to "fend off foreign aircraft".