China Pick a Wrong Fight in the West Philippine Sea

Published on July 15, 2020 by

A Chinese government survey ship is trailing an exploration vessel operated by Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas in Malaysian territorial waters in the South China Sea.

According to Malaysian security , the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was flanked at one point on by more than 10 Chinese vessels, including those belonging to the maritime militia and the coast guard. The Haiyang Dizhi 8 was 324 km (200 miles) off the Malaysian coast, within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone, Marine Traffic data showed.

Since  last year, Petronas has been conducting exploration activities near an area claimed by Malaysia and Vietnam as well as by China. In mid-April, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 – the Chinese government survey vessel – started operating in the area, escorted by coast guard and China Maritime Militia vessels.

The incident prompted the U.S. to call on China to stop its “bullying behaviour” in the disputed waters, citing concern over Beijing’s provocative actions towards offshore oil and gas developments there.

As standoff continue, US Navy warship, the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a littoral combat ship, left port in Singapore for the South China Sea on April 25 and sailed near the site of a survey being conducted by the Chinese vessel Hai Yang Di Zhi 8.

The USS Gabrielle Giffords joins the USS America, USS Bunker Hill, and USS Barry in demonstrating the American naval presence in the South China Sea. They were recently joined last week by Australian frigate HMAS Parramatta in a joint exercise. The K.D. Kelantan, a Royal Malaysian Navy warship, has also been patrolling the area.

“During the passage exercises, the ships honed interoperability between Australian and U.S. navies, including replenishment at sea, aviation operations, maritime maneuvers, and communications drills,” the Australian Defence Department said in a statement which sought to play down its role.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hishamuddin said, international law guarantees the freedom of navigation, the presence of warships and vessels in the South China Sea has the potential to increase tensions that, in turn, may result in miscalcul­ations which may affect peace, security, and stability in the region.

Beijing also established two research stations on its artificial islands in the Fiery Cross and Subi reefs, which are claimed by the Philippines. It also established a “mental health facility” in Mischief Reef, which has been declared by the international tribunal in The Hague as within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines director for the Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea said,  China’s obvious double­faced diplomacy, building up aggression in the South China Sea while offering medical equipment to neighboring countries, had successfully silenced potential protests by the Philippines and other ASEAN countries.

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