Malaysia: Chinese Fishing Vessels Did Not Trespass
On Sunday, Malaysia's defense forces appeared to take back a statement from late last week alleging that Chinese fishing vessels were "encroaching" on Malaysian waters, and said that after further review, they were certain there had been no trespass.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said that the head of Malaysia's navy had told him that there had been no incursion. "I am relieved that he [the navy chief] confirmed that our waters are safe," he said, as reported by the Straits Times.
Malaysia's National Security Minister, Shahidan Kassim, had announced on Thursday that aerial surveillance had detected a fleet of 100 Chinese fishing boats "encroaching" on Malaysian waters in the disputed South China Sea.
He said that assets from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the navy had been sent to the area near the Luconia Shoals to monitor the situation, the Bernama news agency reported.
Shahidan did not specify what type of Chinese vessels had been spotted but a Maritime Enforcement Agency official said they were fishing boats guarded by two Chinese coastguard vessels. Shahidan threatened legal action if the vessels were found to have trespassed.
China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, asked about the reported fishing vessel incursion at a briefing Friday, said he could not understand the allegation.
"Now is the fishing season in the South China Sea ... At this time of year, every year, Chinese trawlers are in the relevant waters carrying out normal fishing activities," Hong said.
Tensions are high in the South China Sea as China moves to expand its presence within its "nine dash line" claim, which contests the territorial interests of many nations in Southeast Asia.
Regional media suggested that Chinese firms have invested heavily in Malaysia's economy in recent years, and that the government may be retracting its assertion in order to remain on good diplomatic terms with China.