KUALA LUMPUR: The submerged reef would be easy to miss, under turquoise seas about 80 km (50 miles) off Malaysia’s Borneo island state of Sarawak.
But two Chinese naval exercises in less than a year around the James Shoal have shocked Malaysia and led to a significant shift in its approach to China’s claims to the disputed South China Sea, senior diplomats told Reuters. The reef lies outside Malaysia’s territorial waters but inside its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The latest incident in January, in particular, prompted Malaysia to quietly step up cooperation with the Philippines and Vietnam, the two Southeast Asian nations most outspoken over China’s moves in the region, in trying to tie Beijing to binding rules of conduct in the South China Sea, the diplomats said.
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