KOTA KINABALU: A regional superpower has encroached into maritime territory by constructing airstrips, jetties and other facilities on three atolls just 155km (84 nautical miles) from Sabah, says Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Without naming the superpower concerned, the Deputy Prime Minister said the country's motives of building the facilities 3,218km from its mainland were questionable.
"To claim this part of the South China Sea as theirs due to historical narrative is invalid," Ahmad Zahid said when opening the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) congress here on Saturday.
He said Malaysia's 200 Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) based on the United Nations Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS) must be respected by all nations.
"We have a country that is building 3km-long airstrips and port facilities, supposedly for its coast guard," Ahmad Zahid said.
"Does this make sense when that country's mainland is more than 3,000kms away?" he said, adding that Malaysia would not remain silent as the superpower concerned had encroached into the country's EEZ.
Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia would not hesitate to defend what rightfully belonged to nation under international laws.
He said authorities from other countries should also respect international laws and not harass Malaysian fishermen operating within the nation's EEZ.
He said the current situation in the South China Sea should be resolved through a proper code of conduct.
In this regard, he said the international community should step in and assist disputes arising in the South China Sea.
Ahmad Zahid said PBS, other parties as well as other Malaysian groups must send a message of opposing the move by any nation to encroach into the nation's territory.
"For a start, I want the PBS delegates to pass a resolution to oppose any country's move to encroach into Malaysian territory," he said.
It has widely been reported that China has ramped up land reclamation work in certain areas in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Photographs have shown that airstrips are supposedly being built there as well.
The area has also been claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei.
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