Beijing [China], June 5 (ANI): The recent flight by Chinese military planes over hotly contested waters in the South China Sea, off Malaysia's coast, is probably aimed at demonstrating Beijing's growing ability to assert territorial claims against its neighbours, an observer said.
Malaysia recently summoned Chinese Ambassador Ouyang Yujing for an explanation stating that 16 Chinese air force transport planes had flown within the country's exclusive economic zone, about 60 nautical miles (111km) off the coast of the state of Sarawak.
Malaysia foreign ministry called it a "breach of Malaysian airspace and sovereignty", South China Morning Post reported.
Mobilising aircraft near the South Luconia Shoal could be seen as a deterrent to rival claimants, said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
"This incident is more likely directed at demonstrating its new-found military power projection capabilities, contrasting with a Malaysian air force well known to be under-strength and under-resourced," Koh said. "The Chinese might want to show that they're now better equipped for escalating dominance."
Malaysia's Air Force on Monday said it scrambled jets to conduct visual confirmation after China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) planes flew within 60 nautical miles off Sarawak state of Malaysian Borneo, reported CNN.
China has said that it has conveyed to Malaysia that a flight of 16 Chinese military planes over hotly contested waters in the South China Sea was a "routine training" and does not target any country.
During a daily press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China's air force strictly complied with international law and didn't enter the air space of any other country.
"To my knowledge, it was a routine training conducted by China's air force over waters to the south of Nansha Islands. It doesn't target any country. During the training, China's air force strictly complied with international law and didn't enter the air space of any other country. The Chinese side has communicated with the Malaysian side over this," Wang said.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.
Last year, a Chinese survey ship held a month-long standoff with a Malaysian oil exploration vessel within Malaysia's EEZ, reported CNN.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has lodged a protest against China's continuing "illegal presence and activities" near Pag-asa Islands last week. (ANI)