The Virginia Legislature will open debate next month on three bills related to the Japan-South Korea dispute over the name of the body of water between the two nations, a state senator said.

The bills would require public school textbooks used in Virginia to label the body of water as both the Sea of Japan and its Korean name, the East Sea.

Japan maintains that the Sea of Japan is the only internationally established name for the sea.

Virginia has an increasing number of Korean-Americans and Korean residents, mainly in the area close to Washington.

The Senate voted down a similar bill last year, but state Sen. Richard Black, a Republican who sponsored one of the three bills, said they are likely to be enacted this time with the backing of a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Black said the issue has significance for Korean-Americans and that the lawmakers backing the bills are trying to seek "a sort of balance" in the classroom.

"I don't want to exacerbate tensions" between the Japanese and South Koreans, Black said.

School boards in some counties in Maryland, near Virginia, have decided to use textbooks that include both names.

The U.S. government calls the body of water the Sea of Japan while acknowledging that South Korea calls it the East Sea.