Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it would summon China’s Ambassador to explain an ‘intrusion’ by 16 Chinese military airplanes into its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) after Malaysia’s military detected “suspicious” activity over the South China Sea, reported CNN. This comes after Malaysia’s Air Force on Monday said it scrambled jets to conduct visual confirmation after China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planes flew within 60 nautical miles off Sarawak state of Malaysian Borneo, reported CNN. It described the incident as a “serious threat to national sovereignty and flight safety”, adding that the Chinese planes did not conduct regional air traffic control despite being instructed several times.
Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia will issue a note of diplomatic protest and ask China’s ambassador to Malaysia to explain the “breach of the Malaysian airspace and sovereignty.” “Malaysia’s stand is clear — having friendly diplomatic relations with any countries does not mean that we will compromise on our national security,” the minister said in a statement.
Meanwhile, China’s embassy in Malaysia has said that the planes conducted routine flight training and ‘strictly abided by’ international law without violating the airspace of other countries. “China and Malaysia are friendly neighbors, and China is willing to continue bilateral friendly consultations with Malaysia to jointly maintain regional peace and stability,” CNN quoted a spokesperson of the embassy. China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing’s concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions. Last year, a Chinese survey ship held a month-long standoff with a Malaysian oil exploration vessel within Malaysia’s EEZ, reported CNN. Meanwhile, the Philippines has lodged protest against China’s continuing “illegal presence and activities” near Pag-asa Islands last week. “The Department of Foreign Affairs lodged a diplomatic protest yesterday against the incessant deployment, prolonged presence, and illegal activities of Chinese maritime assets and fishing vessels in the vicinity of the Pag-asa islands, demanding that China withdraw these vessels. The Pag-asa Islands is an integral part of the Philippines over which it has sovereignty and jurisdiction,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. (ANI)