Chinese Vessel Leaves Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone 2 Weeks After Protest

BenarNews staff
2021-10-18
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Chinese Vessel Leaves Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone 2 Weeks After Protest
Photo: BenarNews

Chinese survey vessel Da Yang Hao has left Malaysia’s waters, two weeks after the Malaysian Foreign Ministry summoned the Chinese ambassador to protest.

Ship-tracking data on Monday showed the 4,600-ton vessel is now on its way northward, more than 200 nautical miles west of the Philippines.

“It’s hard to have any certainty as to China’s decision-making,” said Sharihman Lockman, a senior analyst at Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS).

“Da Yang Hao was obviously there as a form of protest against Malaysia’s oil and gas activities so China has probably calculated that they’ve made their point and left,” he told BenarNews.

Since late September, the Da Yang Hao had been operating in an area that runs through the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of three countries: Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

At one point it was only 40 nautical miles from Philippines’ Balabac Island and 60 nautical miles from Malaysia’s coast.

On Oct. 4, Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it had summoned Chinese Ambassador Ouyang Yujing to protest against the “presence and activities” of Chinese vessels in Malaysian waters.

Among them was the survey ship Da Yang Hao, which was running back and forth off the coasts of the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak. The ship first appeared in the area around Sept. 25-26.

Kuala Lumpur called its activity “inconsistent with Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone Act 1984, as well as the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

UNCLOS defines an EEZ as extending 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from shore, and grants the coastal state the sole right to explore and exploit the natural resources.

The statement from the Foreign Ministry added that Malaysia “had also protested against the previous encroachments by other foreign vessels into our waters.”

Malaysia had always been cautious in dealing with China, its biggest trading partner, but the strong wording this time suggested that the Malaysian leadership was under pressure to show a firmer attitude against Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The analyst Lockman said he doubted that Malaysia’s protest “was decisive in this regard, but it probably helped by further publicizing China’s actions.”

In a similar incident last year, another Chinese survey ship, Haiyang Dizhi 8, only left after a month-long standoff with a Malaysian drill ship contracted by the state-run firm Petronas.

Another Chinese survey vessel, the Haiyang Dizhi 10, has been operating in an oil field in Indonesia’s EEZ since the end of August and was still there on Monday.

Chinese ships often show up uninvited in disputed waters in the South China Sea, especially when there are maritime activities by neighboring countries and their allies.

Naval ships from the U.S., U.K. and other nations have been conducting exercises and port calls in the Indo-Pacific, most recently in a two-week drill called Bersama Gold 2021.

China claims “historic rights” to almost 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea which is also claimed in parts by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Southeast Asian countries and China are discussing a so-called Code of Conduct for the South China Sea in order to resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance to the international law. Experts say it is unlikely an agreement would be achieved in the foreseeable future due to the parties’ conflicting interests.

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