China at centre of maritime issues with KL, Tokyo

A Chinese Coast Guard ship near disputed islets, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China, in the East China Sea.
A Chinese Coast Guard ship near disputed islets, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and Diaoyu islands in China, in the East China Sea. PHOTO: AFP

Malaysia yesterday denied that Chinese vessels had encroached into its waters after investigating claims that 82 fishing boats were spotted within its Exclusive Economic Zone in the disputed South China Sea.

This was as Japan switched on a radar station on an island in the East China Sea, giving it a permanent intelligence-gathering post close to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands claimed by both Japan and China.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters that his navy chief told him there was no trespassing by Chinese vessels. On Sunday, he had shown reluctance to escalate tensions with China, saying that even if the sightings were confirmed, the issue could be "resolved bilaterally". China is Malaysia's top trading partner.

Sources said that although the boats were not clearly marked as Chinese, they were escorted by Chinese coast guard vessels.

 
 
 

Meanwhile, China's growing military clout in the region has led Japan to beef up its military along an island chain as part of its strategy to keep China at bay in the western Pacific.

The listening post on Yonaguni Island is a part of this military build- up, which will take place over five years and will include missile batteries and increasing Self-Defence Force personnel in the East China Sea by about a fifth to nearly 10,000.

China yesterday reacted angrily to the Japanese move, saying in a statement: "The Diaoyu Islands are China's inherent territory. We are resolutely opposed to any provocative behaviour by Japan aimed at Chinese territory."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'China at centre of maritime issues with KL, Tokyo'. Print Edition | Subscribe