English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

China now indulges in muscle flexing with Malaysia over South China Sea dispute

China continues to open up new theatres of conflict (Photo: IANS)

Malaysia scrambled its fighter jets to deter the alleged violation of its airspace by 16 Chinese aircraft earlier this week in a disputed South China Sea area. The Malaysian government also said that the airspace violation was a “serious threat” to its national sovereignty and flight safety.

Malaysia has taken serious note of the incident and plans to lodge a diplomatic protest with the Chinese ambassador. Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he will summon the Chinese ambassador over "this breach of the Malaysian airspace and sovereignty."

Giving details, Malaysia said that its air force picked up signs of Chinese aircraft near Luconia Shoals—a fishing area in the South China Sea (SCS)—after which the Chinese aircraft moved towards Sarawak on Borneo island.

Malaysia sent its fighter jets to identify the Chinese aircraft after attempts to contact the aircraft failed. The Malaysian Air Force said that the Chinese aircraft did not contact the regional air traffic control despite being instructed several times. The Chinese aircraft were flying between 23,000 and 27,000 feet at a range used by commercial flights.

In a statement, Hussein said: "Malaysia’s stand is clear—having friendly diplomatic relations with any country does not mean that we will compromise our national security”.

Malaysia says that the Chinese coast guard and military ships have breached its maritime zones in the SCS almost 89 times between 2016 and 2019. Till now, an alert Malaysia has filed six diplomatic protests with China, including one in 2017 in response to a Chinese note asserting its claim to the South Luconia Shoals.

In response to the Malaysian protests, the Chinese Embassy refuted the violation of Malaysia’s airspace. In a statement, the embassy said the Chinese planes were carrying out routine flight training and didn’t target any country. It added that the Chinese military aircraft abided by the relevant international law and did not enter the territorial airspace of any other country.

Over the past few months, China has infringed upon the air spaces of Japan, Taiwan, and now, Malaysia, with unfailing regularity. With Taiwan, it has also uttered war cries, saying that the Chinese forces will invade the tiny island nation, which lies off the Taiwan strait.

Just a few weeks back another South-East Asian country, the Philippines had complained that hundreds of Chinese militia boats had invaded its exclusive maritime zone. The exact location, as mentioned by Philippines Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana was the Julian Felipe Reef, also known as the Whitsun Reef.

The Philippines military too rushed its air and maritime patrols to verify the Chinese intrusion into its waters.

China has laid claim to all of the SCS, thereby entering into disputes with many of the South-East Asian nations. To fortify its claims over SCS, it has not only occupied islands which lie in the territorial waters of other countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, it has also built artificial islands and inhabited them.

China has in the past flooded these areas with hundreds of its fishing boats, maritime militia boats, exploration and research vessels, coast guard vessels as well as navy boats. This tactic has been to overwhelm the area with so many vessels that other countries are deterred from entering those waters. The idea that Beijing is employing in the SCS is to physically keep off and scare away the neighbouring countries.