China has been stirring up trouble by asserting outlandishly large territorial rights in the South China Sea for several years now. A number of regional nations, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have been in disputes with China over its posturing and aggressive military maneuvers in the South China Sea.
Malyasia, however, had maintained a more low-key and non-confrontational attitude toward the Chinese provocations in the area, at least until this week.
Malaysia announced on Monday, June 8th that it will protest the intrusion of a Chinese Coast Guard ship into its territorial waters north of Borneo, a rare confrontational statement in the growing tensions in the South China Sea.
Statement from Malaysian National Security Minister Shahidan Kassim
“This is not an area with overlapping claims. In this case, we’re taking diplomatic action,” National Security Minister Shahidan Kassim said in a local interview on Monday, continuing to say that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is also planning to discuss the issue directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Malaysia standing up to China
Kassim posted pictures on his personal Facebook page a few days ago of what he claimed was a Chinese coast guard ship anchored at Luconia Shoals, an area about 150 kilometers north of the Malaysian island of Borneo, and far inside the 400-kilometer exclusive economic zone Malaysia claims off its shoreline. Of note, Luconia shoals are more than 2,000 kilometers away from mainland China.
Not surprisingly, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hong Lei commented on Monday that he was unfamiliar with Malaysia’s claim that a Chinese ship was located at Luconia Shoals.
Political analysts note that China claims almost 90% of the South China Sea. That said, Luconia Shoals is near the far southern edge of the Nine-Dash Line, which China uses to demarcate its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
More on ongoing tensions in South China Sea
As reported by ValueWalk, the Chinese military has been growing increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea for some time now. Moreover, in the last year or so, China has been rapidly increasing up its military capabilities in the area, including efforts to reclaim thousands of acres of submerged islands for military facilities.
In another worrisome development, China published a new defense white paper a couple of weeks ago vowing to boost its presence in the South China Sea. The confrontational document even contains a warning that a war between the U.S. and China is “inevitable” unless the United States stops interfering in Beijing’s activities in the area.
In the new Chinese defense policy document, the country’s military leadership details its future plans to transition from its current more defensive posture in the South China Sea to developing significant offensive capabilities that could be projected throughout the region.
Also of interest, U.S. reconnaissance photos have confirmed that China is constructing at least seven artificial islands in the disputed Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. Moreover, recent intelligence data has confirmed that the Chinese military has begun placing artillery pieces on the newly created islands.