The Malaysian Air Force published pictures of Chinese planes near the country’s airspace, after it sent fighters to intercept them, describing it as a threat to Malaysia’s sovereignty.
Malaysia has accused China of violating its airspace by flying a flock of military aircraft over the island of Borneo over part of the South China Sea disputed by the two countries, and said it would lodge a protest with Beijing and recall its ambassador.
The Malaysian Air Force indicated that the Chinese planes flew 110 kilometers off the coast of Indonesia’s Borneo, and did not respond to attempts to communicate, which prompted Malaysia to send its fighters.
For its part, China on Wednesday attributed the flight of 16 Chinese military aircraft off Malaysia to that it was a routine flight training for the Chinese Air Force, and that it was not targeting any country.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur said that “according to international law, Chinese military aircraft can enjoy freedom of overflight” in this area, and said that the Chinese aircraft did not enter the airspace of a third country.
Beijing asserts its sovereignty over almost all the islands of the South China Sea, and has built military sites on small islands in the region, which has angered many countries that claim their right to the waters adjacent to its territory.
Neighboring countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam object to China’s claims in the region, which is a key global trade route.
The United States also sent military ships to the region to assert its right to freedom of navigation, much to the chagrin of China.