Malaysia detains 60 Chinese nationals, six vessels for trespassing
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's maritime authorities said Saturday they had arrested 60 Chinese nationals and six China-registered fishing vessels who they said had invaded the waters of the Southeast Asian country.
Malaysia reported 89 interventions by Chinese coast guards and naval vessels between 2016 and 2019, while tensions between the United States and China escalated over Beijing's claims to most of the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also an important trade route.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) announced that the fishing vessels and crew were arrested on Friday during an operation off the coast of the southern state of Johor.
"Further checks revealed that all ships registered in Qinhuangdoa, China were manned by six captains and 54 crew members who are Chinese nationals between the ages of 31 and 60," said Mohd Zulfadli Nayan, regional director of the MMEA, in a statement.
The MMEA said the ships that had no cargo when they were arrested were believed to be on their way to Mauritania but had to stop due to a malfunction.
Earlier this year, a Chinese research vessel spent a month surveying Malaysia's exclusive economic zone amid a standoff with a Malaysian oil exploration vessel near controversial waters.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by William Mallard)
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