16 Chinese Jets Enters Malaysia's Air Space; KL Says Sovereignty Threatened

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) said on Tuesday 16 Chinese air force jets made suspicious flights into Malaysia's maritime zone air space and came within 60 nautical miles of Sarawak beach, 'threatening Malaysia's sovereignty'.

"The planes flew in that formation using the same point of entry and exit. The planes then changed (direction), heading to the Beting Patinggi Ali air space which is important to the country," RMAF said in a statement.

South China Sea
China has increased its military and surveillance presence in South China Sea Wikimedia Commons

Malaysia Deploys Hawk 208 Jets

The RMAF scrambled fighter jets after it identified the Chinese military transport planes entering it air space. The planes were identified by the RMAF's defence radar in Sarawak in the morning, local time.

The Malaysian air force said it deployed its Hawk 208 jets from No. 6 squadron on high alert after detecting the Chinese incursion.

After incoming planes failed to acknowledge instructions from controllers in the Kota Kinabalu FIR, RMAF scrambled intercepting jets at 1.33pm to perform a visual identification. The air force said it identified that the Russian planes were Ilyushin Il-76 and Xian Y-20 aircraft that are capable of carrying out varying missions.

US arms sale to Israel
U.S. Air Force fighter jets flying in formation. Representational Wikimedia Commons

South China Sea Tensions

"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. 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".

Though China claims much of the South China Sea, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei also have claims to a clutch of islands, shoals, rocky outcrops, atolls and sandbanks in the sprawling south China sea, making it a theatre of tense maritime dispute.