‘China not encroaching on our waters’
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 29: Malaysia has denied foreign reports that China had encroached into Sarawak waters and was flexing its muscle in the country’s maritime borders as a show of power.
Royal Malaysian Navy chief Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar who rubbished them as inaccurate reporting, said China was actually holding a high-level maritime exercise with its navy and airforce, away from the country’s exclusive economic zone and it was held in conjunction with the recent launch of its aircraft carrier Liaoning.
The New Straits Times understands the exercise involved the aircraft carrier, and maritime assets including a submarine, the amphibious dock landing ship Changbaishan, two destroyers, as well as frigates with support from its air force fighter-jets. The exercise, Aziz said was being conducted northwest of the disputed Spratly islands, which was over 1,000 nautical miles away from Malaysia’s 200nm exclusive economic zone, adding that no Chinese ship encroached James Shoal, located 80km northwest of Bintulu, Sarawak.
“We are aware of this and our naval and air forces are monitoring the situation with heightened surveillance. There has been no act of provocation on the part of the Chinese or threat to our sovereignty, as they are conducting their exercise in international waters.”
Aziz said other nations like the United States was aware of this. He said the RMN anticipated the high-level exercise and was informed of it through diplomatic channels, adding that there was no reason for alarm.
“Malaysia and China share cordial relations, going back to the ‘ping-pong’ diplomacy (during the times of premier Tun Abdul Razak and chairman Mao Zedong) in the 1970s. I hope people do not speculate anything as this is China’s right, to perhaps strengthen their capability as well as a show of force of its assets in the region.”
James Shoal, known as the southern most part Zengmu Ansha by China and Beting Serupai by Malaysia, is a small bank in the South China Sea with a depth of 22m. Although James Shoal is 1,800km from mainland China, it is at times grouped with the Spratlys, as part of the international dispute between Malaysia, China and Taiwan over sovereignty in the South China Sea.
The China Marine Surveillance Ship-83 reportedly placed a sovereignty steel marker (monument) in the waters off James Shoal on April 20, 2010, to strengthen their claim, prompting Malaysia to beef up security in the oil and gas-rich area with the possibility of constructing a naval base in Bintulu.
In March last year, China’s naval vessels reportedly conducted drills around James Shoal, prompting protests from Malaysia. China’s acts of aggression to assert itself in the South China Sea, an important passageway for shipping and rich in resources, has drawn protests from the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and the US.
source: New Straits Times