About 100 China-registered boats have been detected encroaching into Malaysian waters near the Luconia Shoals in the South China Sea, a Malaysian minister said.
Shahidan Kassim, a minister in charge of national security, said the government has dispatched the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the navy to the area to monitor the situation.
Shahidan was quoted by the national Bernama news agency on Friday as saying that legal enforcement action would be taken if the Chinese vessels are found to have entered Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone.
Shahidan and other ministry officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have overlapping claims. Tensions have ramped up since China began a massive land reclamation program in the strategically vital sea lane in 2013.
Home to some of the world’s busiest sea lanes, the area is also rich in fisheries and may hold oil and natural gas reserves under the seabed.