An incident involving more than a dozen Chinese aircraft which flew close to Malaysian territory this week appears more like a “routine warning” from Beijing to its foes in the region than a routine training, only this time with a key US military asset and a recently discovered Malaysian oil venture as the target, an investigation by MalaysiaNow can reveal.
This came as the US military continued its Fonop programme, the acronym for the so-called Freedom of Navigation Operation where the US would make its presence felt to challenge any territorial claims on international oceans and airspace.
The US Navy’s nuclear-armed super-carrier USS Ronald Reagan has been involved in Fonop in the South China Sea, in a bid to undermine China’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.
The US presence has been largely welcome by the littoral states though this has not been explicitly expressed.
Islands and strategic maritime reefs in the Spratly have been the subject of dispute by six claimant countries: Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and China which dwarfs the others both in size and firepower, and has been flexing its muscles by taking control of several reefs to convert them into launchpads.
The potential of fishing stock as well as what is believed to be a huge deposit of crude oil and hydrocarbons have further fuelled the conflict, potentially making the South China Sea the world’s most dangerous flashpoint after the Persian Gulf.
Malaysia has largely avoided direct confrontation with China unlike its more vocal Asean neighbours the Philippines and Indonesia.