June 10 (UPI) — China flew more than a dozen military transport aircraft over islands in the South China Sea run by Malaysia. In response, Malaysia has sent a fighter jet to investigate.
A news release by the Royal Malaysian Air Force stated that 16 aircraft from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force approached Malaysia’s coast in tactical formation.
The unannounced appearance was detected by air defense radars at 11:52 a.m. MYT on Monday. The vessels didn’t respond to contact attempts by Malaysian air traffic controllers.
After that, the Royal Malaysian Air Force sent combat jets from the Labuan airbase after the foreign aircraft.
China’s foreign ministry said its air force was conducting a routine training exercise in line with international law and that its planes didn’t enter another country’s airspace.
Malaysia’s foreign ministry said that it stands by its statement that the planes intruded into Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea area as its own and has ongoing territorial disputes with nearly all of its neighbors, according to the US Naval Institute’s news site.
One such area, called Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, is closer to Vietnam than mainland China and claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.
The Chinese government used land reclamation to build a runway, harbor and military base at its western end, with USNI reporting Thursday that an intelligence-gathering ship and several patrol aircraft were spotted on at Fiery Cross Reef this week.