South Asia and Beyond

‘China Deliberately Flexing Muscle, Ignoring Protests, Playing ASEAN Individually’

NEW DELHI: Malaysia’s Air Force scrambled jets and the Foreign Ministry summoned China’s envoy to explain an “intrusion” by 16 Air Force transport planes into its airspace. Malaysian Academic and Security Analyst Dr. Ahmad El-Muhammady explains the reactions after the Southeast Asian country’s military detected “suspicious” activity over the South China Sea, the strong diplomatic protest and the history of claims in the region. In conversation with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi, he says, “this is not something accidental. It is a deliberate act.” He adds, China is signalling “its assertiveness like it has for many years and is continuing to do and saying we do not care what other people think about what China is doing.”

This year, the Philippines also lodged several protests over the presence of hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels inside its exclusive economic zone. In 2020, Malaysia was involved in a standoff with China after a Chinese government research ship was spotted conducting a survey close to an exploration vessel operated by Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, China and Vietnam all have claims to various islands and features in the area.

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