The undersea quake struck at a depth of 46 kilometres at 10:31 am (0231 GMT), 154 kilometres northwest of Kota Ternate, the USGS said.
"Tsunami waves are possible for coasts located within 300 kilometres," said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
The centre said tsunami waves could hit parts of Indonesia, as well the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and islands in the South Pacific.
Tsunami waves between 30 centimetres and one metre could hit parts of Indonesia, said the centre, while waves below 30 centimetres were forecast for the coasts of the Philippines, the centre said.
"We have issued an early tsunami warning," an official from Indonesia's meteorological agency said.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
A huge undersea quake in 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed more than 170,000 people in Aceh province, on western Sumatra island, and tens of thousands more in other countries with coasts on the Indian Ocean.

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