China Says Military Flight Off Malaysia Was “Routine Training”

China on Wednesday announced a flight of 16 military planes over the hotly contested waters off Malaysia was routine training, after the Southeast Asian nation accused Beijing infringement of its sovereignty.

Malaysia scrambled fighter jets on Monday to intercept Chinese Air Force transport planes that appeared off Borneo during the South china sea, where it has overlapping territorial claims with Beijing.

Malaysia’s foreign minister called the theft an “intrusion” and said the government would protest Beijing and summon the Chinese ambassador.

But a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur said that “the activities are routine flight training for the Chinese Air Force and do not target any country.”

“According to applicable international law, Chinese military planes enjoy the freedom to fly over the airspace concerned,” he said.

The planes had not entered the territorial airspace of any other country, the spokesperson added in a statement.

The plane approached within 60 nautical miles (110 kilometers) of the Malaysian part of Borneo and did not respond to attempts to contact them, prompting Malaysia to jam the planes, according to the military. of the air of the country.

They turned around before entering Malaysian airspace over its territorial waters.

But Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said they had entered the country’s “sea zone” – an area that stretches much further from the coast – and called the incident a “violation of space. air and sovereignty of Malaysia “.

China has claimed almost all of the South China Sea and has built numerous military outposts on small islands and atolls, angering other countries with competing claims to the waters.

Relations between Malaysia and China are generally warm, but Monday’s incident comes after heightened tensions over the sea, which is home to key sea routes and is believed to be home to rich oil and gas fields.

Last year, a Chinese investigative vessel had a long standoff with a Malaysian oil exploration vessel off Borneo.

Other applicants at sea include Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.

the United States also sent warships into the waters to assert international rights to freedom of navigation, angering China.

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