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Malaysia deploys support ship to South China Sea in wake of another EEZ incursion

A file image of Bunga Mas Lima , which has been deployed to shadow the presence of the Chinese research vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 in the South China Sea. (Royal Malaysian Navy)

The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has deployed its auxiliary support ship Bunga Mas Lima in response to the presence of yet another Chinese government vessel in what Putrajaya considers to be its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The deployment appears to be an attempt by the RMN to project a more proportionate response amid what it sees as repeated incursions of Chinese vessels into maritime territories claimed by both Beijing and Putrajaya.

According to automatic identification system (AIS) data, the 88 m Chinese research vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 sailed into an area of the South China Sea that lies approximately 145 n mile off the coast of Sarawak on 20 June.

This is the same research vessel that sailed into waters near Sarawak for survey operations near the drillship West Capella in April 2020. This drillship was in service with Malaysia's state-owned oil company Petronas and the incident triggered reciprocal naval deployments by the RMN, the US Navy (USN), and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) then.

In response to the latest incident on 20 June Bunga Mas Lima began sailing towards Haiyang Dizhi 8 and maintained a distance of about 5 n mile from around 1400 h local time on 21 June onwards. As of the morning on 22 June Bunga Mas Lima appears to be sailing away from Haiyang Dizhi 8 after the research vessel embarked on a course northwards.

Based on the voyage pattern observed via AIS data, Haiyang Dizhi 8

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