July 8, 2015
Several Southeast Asian countries have expressed concern over Beijing’s belligerent behavior and aggressive posturing in the South China Sea. A litany of complaints of harassment of innocent fishermen by Chinese Coast Guard vessels has been reported by Vietnam and the Philippines, who are visibly angry with China. These incidents have led to stand-offs between maritime security forces, shadowing and buzzing by aircraft, including obstruction of exploration ships and rigs. Issues such as freedom of navigation and the possibility of China announcing an ADIZ over the South China Sea have also unnerved regional countries. If these trends continue, these could potentially result in deterioration of relations between China and the Southeast Asian countries and Beijing may soon lose friends.
In light of these developments, the ongoing standoff between Malaysia and China over the presence of a Chinese coast guard ship Haijing (CCG-1123) anchored in Malaysia’s Economic Zone (EEZ) merits attention. Following the sighting of the Chinese coast guard ship off Luconia Shoals (Beting Patinggi Ali in Malay) nearly 90 nautical miles north of Sarawak, the Malaysian government ordered the navy and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) to deploy ships and aircraft and monitor the activities of the Chinese ship. The Malaysian Navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar expressed concern over the intrusion by the Chinese ship and announced that his forces were continuously monitoring and shadowing the Chinese vessel. Further, since September 2014, intrusion by Chinese vessels in Malaysian waters had increased and “We protest every time. We see them every day .” Jaafar was also disappointed that there was no response from the Chinese ship when it was contacted by radio with warnings to leave Malaysian waters using international distress and calling frequencies . Malaysian National Security Minister Shahidan Kassim stated that Luconia Shoals fall in the Malaysian EEZ and warned that Prime Minister Najib Razak would raise the issue directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.