Pakatan Harapan calls for ‘clear action plan’ after Chinese military planes detected near Malaysian airspace
KUALA LUMPUR: The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition on Wednesday (Jun 2) urged the government to develop a “clear action plan”, after Chinese military transport planes were detected heading towards Malaysian airspace and threatened the country’s sovereignty.
In a statement, PH’s Security Committee said: “This incident is a threat to flight safety, challenges national sovereignty and affects international ties."
“Therefore, the government should present a clear action plan and also allow parliamentarians to discuss this crucial incident, in the interest of the country.”
The opposition coalition also asked Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to conduct a special bipartisan briefing involving the government and the opposition to clarify the next steps and the current requirements of the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces to prevent any further trespassing.
“The committee will be writing to the defence minister to organise the official briefing with the commander of the Malaysian Army and the commander of the Air Force to face this issue affecting the national sovereignty together.
“Once again, this incident clearly shows that although the world is fighting COVID-19, conventional threats remain a thorn in our country’s flesh,” said the statement.
PH added that it was important for the government to immediately carry out the air force modernisation program based on the 2019 defence white paper.
On Tuesday, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) said that it identified 16 People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) planes making suspicious flights in Malaysia’s maritime zone air space, the Kota Kinabalu Flight Information Region (FIR) and approaching the Malaysian national airspace on May 31.
The PLAAF planes then flew via Singapore FIR before entering the Malaysia maritime zone air space and the Kota Kinabalu FIR, the RMAF statement said, adding that the Chinese planes approached within 60 nautical miles of Sarawak beach, “threatening Malaysia’s sovereignty”.
RMAF scrambled intercepting jets to perform a visual identification. “As a result of the air interception carried out, the RMAF has identified the aircraft as Ilyushin Il-76 and Xian Y-20 aircraft. These types of aircraft are strategic transport aircraft and capable of performing various missions,” said RMAF.
“This incident is a serious matter that threatens national sovereignty and aviation safety, based on the density of air traffic in the airline routes in Kota Kinabalu FIR”.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the ministry will issue a "note of diplomatic protest" and will ask China's ambassador to Malaysia to explain the "breach of the Malaysian airspace and sovereignty".
The Chinese embassy in Malaysia said on Tuesday the planes were conducting routine flight training.
"As far as I know, the reported activities are routine flight training of the Chinese Air Force and do not target any country," said a spokesperson.
China claims much of the South China Sea, but there are also overlapping claims by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Washington and its allies have also challenged Beijing’s territorial claims.
In April last year, Mr Hishammuddin called for calm in the South China Sea and reaffirmed Malaysia's commitment to peace in the disputed waters.
This came after reports that a Chinese government survey ship was "tagging" an exploration vessel operated by Malaysia's state oil company Petronas in the South China Sea.