After a month of tensions in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, a Chinese survey vessel has left Malaysian waters, Reuters reported on Friday, quoting data from Marine Traffic.
In the middle of April, tensions flared up again in the disputed South China Sea, after Chinese research and survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 started tagging an exploration ship, West Capella, which Malaysia’s state oil firm Petronas had hired for exploration in the area.
The long-running dispute in the South China Sea involves territorial claims by China as well as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia. China has territorial claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, which has put it at odds with its neighbors.
The Haiyang Dizhi 8 ship has been close to the West Capella exploration vessel operated by Petronas. The same Chinese ship had been spotted off Vietnam’s waters before that, and was moving closer to Malaysia in mid-April, according to ship-tracking data cited by Reuters at the time.
Today, the Chinese vessel left Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone en route to China, flanked by at least two other Chinese ships, according to data from Marine Traffic cited by Reuters.
Earlier this week, the Malaysian oil exploration ship West Capella left the disputed area on Tuesday, security sources and the vessel’s operator told Reuters. Offshore drilling firm Seadrill, via its communications director Iain Cracknell, confirmed to Reuters that the West Capella vessel contracted by Petronas had left the area after completing its exploration surveys.
Tensions in the South China Sea have increased in recent weeks.
Last month, the U.S. State Department said, commenting on reports that China had sunk a Vietnamese fishing vessel in the South China Sea:
“We call on the PRC to remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic, and to stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea.”