Beijing's deployment of surface-to-air missiles to an island in the Paracel chain of the contested South China Sea is a potential game changer that could ultimately lay the groundwork for the creation of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the disputed waters, analysts say.

U.S. and Japanese officials on Wednesday confirmed reports that Beijing had dispatched a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system to Woody Island in the Paracels. Media reports had earlier said two batteries of the HQ-9 system, along with radar-targeting arrays, had been spotted.

Regarding the deployment, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said late Wednesday that the "unilateral move by China to change the status quo cannot be overlooked." Nakatani, in a meeting with the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, vowed that Japan would continue to support the U.S. military's so-called freedom of navigation operations.