A Chinese survey ship that had been involved in a month-long standoff with a Malaysian oil exploration vessel in the South China Sea has now reportedly left Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). According to an international media outlet, the Haiyang Dizhi 8 had been surveying in the EEZ since mid-April, however, on May 15 the ship reportedly moved out of Malaysia’s EEZ and headed north towards China.
As per reports, the Chinese ship had been surveying close to where a drillship contracted by Malaysian state oil firm Petronas had been operating in water claimed by Malaysia, China and Vietnam. While speaking to an international media outlet, the operator said that the West Capella, the ship contracted by Petronas, left the disputed waters on Tuesday after completing its planned work and after two days, the Chinese survey ship also left the water and was also escorted by at least two Chinese vessels as well.
According to a data provided by a ship-tracking website, Marine Traffic, the Chinese ship had moved within Malaysian waters in a hash-shaped pattern consistent with carrying out a survey, as it did during a tense standoff with Vietnamese vessel last year. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s foreign ministry had earlier called for disputes over the South China Sea to be resolved by peaceful means. As per reports, China has denied the standoff and said that the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was conducting normal activities.
The month-long standoff also prompted the United States to reportedly call on China to stop its ‘bullying behaviour’ in the disputed waters. The US and Australian warships have reportedly also conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea close to the West Capella in recent weeks, shortly after the Haiyang Dizhi 8 arrived. As per reports, the US-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) has said the China-Malaysia standoff had been going on for months.
China reportedly claims all of the energy-rich South China Sea, also a major trade route, however, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims. The US has also allegedly accused China of taking advantage of the distraction of the coronavirus pandemic to advance its presence in the sea. Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson last month reportedly accused US officials of smearing Beijing.