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China bullies Malaysia in quest for oil and gas in South China Sea: US think tank

China is bullying most nations around its periphery (Photo courtesy: Orient Shield Facebook)

A US think tank has said that China is discouraging competitor countries in the South China Sea (SCS) over oil and gas explorations.

The report says that China is "challenging its neighbors’ oil and gas activities within their own exclusive economic zones".

The US organisation has said that stand-offs between China and other countries in the region continue to take place on a regular basis, though only some get reported widely.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) report says that ships from the China Coast Guard (CCG) harassed Malaysian vessels near the Kasawari gas field last month. AMTI says: "This is at least the third time since last spring that the CCG has harassed Malaysian energy exploration. It demonstrates again Beijing’s persistence in challenging its neighbors’ oil and gas activities within their own exclusive economic zones".

AMTI says that the air patrol that China conducted near the Malaysian air space was "likely not a coincidence". It adds that the flypast with 16 military aircraft happened at a time when Malaysia wanted to install a wellhead platform at Kasawari.

Last month, Malaysia scrambled its fighter jets to chase away the Chinese aircraft that violated its airspace near the disputed South China Sea (SCS) area. Malaysia said that this violation was a “serious threat” to its national sovereignty and flight safety.

"CCG vessels regularly operate around nearby Luconia Shoals, staying there for months and often making passes by Malaysian offshore energy operations", says the US think tank.

Read More: China magazine publishes article detailing three-stage attack on Taiwan

Separately, Russian news agency Sputnik reported that two Chinese ships entered Japanese territorial waters on Saturday, close to the disputed Senkaku Islands in the ECS. Sputnik quoted Japanese broadcaster NHK World that the ships tried to approach Japanese fishing vessels.

The Senkaku Islands are claimed by China and Taiwan also while Japan has control over the islands. Earlier this week the Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and also the Defence Minister had both warned about the likelihood of regional tensions due to China's assertion of military might against Taiwan.

Currently, China is in disputes with most of its neighbours over land and maritime territories. These include India, Bhutan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan. There are reports that China also has intruded into the territory of Nepal, a friendly country.

Read More: In tit-for-tat response to China, Vietnam increases maritime militia in South China Sea

Read More: Japanese leadership says Japan and US must jointly defend Taiwan against China