Provocative military intelligence deal struck with Malaysia

Malaysia’s has reportedly invited the United States to fly spy planes out of East Malaysia on the southern rim of the South China Sea.The agreement seems likely to intensify China’s anger at American surveillance of the strategic waterway and its disputed islands, analysts say.
The United States’ chief of naval operations, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, told a forum in Washington last week that the recent offer by Malaysia for P-8 Poseidon aircraft to fly out of the country’s most eastern area would give the United States greater proximity to the South China Sea.
Admiral Greenert spoke the day before Gen. Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, warned the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, during her visit to Beijing that the Obama administration should halt what he called the “close-in” surveillance flights by P-8 Poseidon planes over the South China Sea and along China’s coast.
China has increasingly contested the right of the United States to conduct surveillance flights over what it says are China’s territorial waters.
Last month, a Chinese fighter pilot flew within 30 feet of a P-8, nearly causing
a collision, the Pentagon said. That P-8, a new fast, high-flying plane built by Boeing and loaded with digital electronics, was based with a squadron of six P-8s that arrived at Kadena air base in Japan last year. The Pentagon has more than 100 P-8s on order from Boeing.
Discussions between Malaysia and the United States for the use of an air base in Sabah, in northeast Malaysia, have been underway for some time, according to a senior Asian diplomat who is familiar with the talks.
The state-run Malaysian energy giant, Petronas, is exploring for oil and gas inside the nine-dash line without retaliation from China.
In his speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Admiral Greenert said, “We have opportunities here, and I think we’ve got to continue to nurture them.”
The Malaysian offer to the United States came, in part, because “China has surprised Malaysia by bringing military ships into its waters and tacitly threatening offshore Malaysia oil and gas exploration,” said Ernie Bower, senior adviser for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
China would interpret an accord between the United States and Malaysia as a direct challenge to Beijing’s insistence that the American spy flights were an infringement of China’s sovereignty, said Wu Xinbo, the director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
The United States says that foreign aircraft have the right to fly over waters beyond a nation’s 12-mile territorial line. China asserts that foreign aircraft do not have the right to fly within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone without permission.
“By reaching this agreement with Malaysia, the United States is saying: ‘If your neighbors can accept this surveillance, why should you complain?’ ” Mr. Wu said.
The United States’ desire for access to Malaysia for spy flights was one more pressure point on China and its growing military capacity.
In his speech, Admiral Greenert said he met with the commander of China’s Navy, Adm. Wu Shengli, four times in the past year and had established good relations, even as he explained that the United States would not be receding from the South China Sea.
“His point to me,” Admiral Greenert said, was “ ‘I’m going to be there too, by the way, because my nation says these are our near seas, these are of interest to us.’ ”

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