Following the interception by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) yesterday of 16 Chinese Air Force aircraft that were “flying suspiciously” towards Malaysian airspace, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy said the flights were routine training and no country was being targeted.
“As far as I know, the reported activities are routine flight training of the Chinese Air Force and do not target any country.
“According to relevant international law, Chinese military aircraft enjoy the freedom of overflight in the relevant airspace. During this training, the Chinese military aircraft strictly abided by the relevant international law and did not enter the territorial airspace of any other country,” the spokesperson said yesterday evening.
The spokesperson added that China and Malaysia are friendly neighbours, and China is willing to continue bilateral friendly consultations with Malaysia to jointly maintain regional peace and stability.
It should be noted that the statement was released before it was announced that the Foreign Affairs Ministry will summon China’s ambassador to Malaysia to explain the incident.
In making that announcement, minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he would “relay Malaysia’s serious concern” over the matter to his counterpart in China, while his ministry would lodge a formal diplomatic protest.
“Malaysia’s stand is clear – having friendly diplomatic relations with any countries does not mean that we will compromise our national security.
“Malaysia remains steadfast in defending our dignity and our sovereignty,” he said yesterday.
The incident involved a formation of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft which entered the Malaysian Maritime Zone near Beting Patinggi Ali (Luconia Shoals) while failing to follow orders to contact air traffic controllers overseeing the Kota Kinabalu Flight Information Region (FIR).
Interceptors launched from Labuan Airbase identified the formation as Ilyushin IL-76 and Xi’an Y-20 strategic transport aircraft of the PLAAF.
“This incident is a very serious threat to our national sovereignty and aviation security due to the density of air traffic in the airways of the Kota Kinabalu FIR,” said the RMAF of the incident.
It said the PLAAF transports came within 60 nautical miles (111km) from the coast of Sarawak.
Beting Patinggi Ali is part of a long-standing maritime dispute between China and several countries, including Malaysia.
Both Malaysia and China claim sovereignty over the shoals, although the latter’s claims are not internationally recognised. – Malaysiakini