Malaysia scrambles jets in response to Chinese military aircraft intrusion

Malaysia scrambles jets in response to Chinese military aircraft intrusion


Malaysia scrambled fighter jets in response to over a dozen People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft entering Malaysian airspace June 1, 2021, near the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo.

PLAAF aircraft moved in a tactical formation and failed to contact regional air traffic control after ignoring repeated requests for identification, according to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). (Pictured: A People’s Liberation Army Air Force Iluyshin II-76 aircraft flies over the Malaysian maritime zone off Kota Kinabalu en route to Sarawak coastal areas June 1, 2021.)

Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a statement that he will lodge a protest with Beijing and summon the Chinese ambassador for an “explanation regarding this breach of the Malaysian airspace and sovereignty.”

“Malaysia’s stand is clear — having friendly diplomatic relations with countries does not mean that we will compromise our national security. Malaysia remains steadfast in defending our dignity and sovereignty,” Hussein said, the Asia Times reported.

RMAF chief Gen. Tan Sri Ackbal Abdul Samad said the incident was a “serious threat to national sovereignty and flight safety” on the basis of heavy air traffic within the Kota Kinabalu flight information region, the Malaysian National News Agency reported.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses its military forces in an effort to coerce neighboring countries by disrupting economic activity and resource development in the South China Sea, vast expanses of which it claims through its so-called nine-dash line. In 2016, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled the nine-dash line invalid. The Chinese government, however, rejected the court’s ruling, and the CCP increased its militarization of the South China Sea and in January 2021 adopted a law authorizing its coast guard to use force in “defending” the expansive claims.

In February 2021, Royal Malaysian Navy vessels confronted Chinese coast guard ships that entered Malaysia’s resource-rich Luconia Shoals, according to Radio Free Asia. Chinese maritime militia have also harassed vessels engaged in Vietnamese resource development and periodically occupied parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. PLAAF aircraft have also engaged in coercive activities near Taiwan, which also claims parts of the South China Sea. In response, Taiwan has routinely scrambled fighters to defend its airspace.

Despite countries in the region and global institutions, including the international tribunal, unanimously refuting the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) claims to most of the South China Sea, Chinese authorities persist in promoting the CCP’s interpretation of the law. In the PRC, for example, teachers indoctrinate students with the disputed notion that the southernmost point of China is James Shoal, a tiny coral reef about 100 kilometers off Malaysia’s Luconia Shoals but 1,800 kilometers from China’s nearest shore.

The United States and its allies stand firm in asserting that an underwater feature such as James Shoal, which is 20 meters beneath the surface, cannot be claimed by a state or generate maritime zones under international law.

For the PRC, “it’s an excessive claim that has no basis,” Carl Thayer, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia who specializes in Southeast Asia, told Voice of America.