Tensions ramp up another notch in the South China Sea as Malaysia has protested the incursion of fishing boats into what they claim is their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A flotilla of one hundred Chinese fishing boats were chased out of the Malaysian waters in March.
For their part, the Chinese have maintained that they are simply fishing in their traditional waters. The Malay minister of national security is not so sure. It could be interpreted as a message that China is pushing for control of the disputed sea.
Malaysia is building a new naval base in that area that will have helicopters, drones and a task force. The stated purpose of the new base is to ensure that extremists will not cause social disruptions.
The S. China Sea is claimed in part by seven nations, some with overlapping claims. China has made the biggest share. To bolster their claims they have embarked on a programme of island building on coral reefs in the area and militarized them. With an increasingly strong hold on some of the sea, they are now making moves to declare the airspace theirs to control -- Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIDZ). This would require passing aircraft to identify themselves and request permission to continue. This, the US Airforce has refused to do.
As well, the shipping through the sea, worth trillions of dollars per year and not now under the PRC’s control.
Malaysia is not the only country finding difficulties with the PRC fishing fleets. Vietnam has had hostile encounters with the Chinese navy while trying to enforce their claims to the sea.
Indonesia has gone one further and has taken to blowing up the seized Chinese fishing vessels. To date 174 vessels have been blown up.
The Philippines have had their fishermen harassed by Chinese boats using water cannons. Since their elections the harassment has eased off as Pres. Xi has made friendly gestures to the new Philippine president Duterte. It may be inspired by the recent announcements that the US and the Philippines will be conducting joint patrols in the disputed sea.
The Philippines have taken their claims to an international court for adjudication but the PRC does not recognize its status.
South China Morning Post
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