Over the last week China has held naval exercises in the South China Sea, involving one of their new amphibious ships. The training included landing marines on small islands, which is just the sort of thing China threatens to do if anyone opposes their claims (to all the uninhabited islets and reefs in the South China Sea) and establishes more manned outposts. China is making it clear how they will deal with such “intrusions.” One of these landing exercises took place 80 kilometers off the coast of Malaysia, and 1,800 kilometers from mainland China.
March 28, 2013: The government cancelled scheduled peace talks in Malaysia with MILF. Talks will resume on April 15th instead. The two sides are working their way through the details, which is a grueling process that has to be done right or final approval by both sides will not be possible.
March 27, 2013: The navy has ordered three Anglo-Italian AW109 helicopters for its larger warships. This three ton helicopter is also manufactured, under license, by China.
March 25, 2013: Malaysia said it would move civilians away from coastal areas of Sabah that are closest to the Philippines. This is to make it more difficult for more invasions by Filipino Moslems seeking to take control of Sabah, like the one Filipino Moslem Raja Kiram recently carried out that led to 74 deaths in Sabah (nearly all of them Filipinos). Malaysia believes there are still at least a hundred of the armed Kiram followers in the area and military forces continue to search for these invaders.
Sabah is claimed by some Moslem Filipinos because of a chain of curious events over the last two centuries. These claims arise because the Sultan of Sulu rented Sabah to Britain in 1878 for $5,300 a year. Followers of Raja Kiram (brother of the pretender to the Sultan title) believe parts of Malaysia should be merged with areas of southwestern Philippines, and the 3.3 million people there, to reconstitute an ancient Moslem state (the Sultanate of Sulu) that once existed. Kiram was apparently also motivated by rumors that Malaysia was planning to renounce the legitimate claim the Philippines had on Sabah and stop paying the $5,300 rent (which the Filipino government passed on to the heirs of the Sultan).
The Sultanate of Sulu (founded in 1457) was conquered by Spain in 1885, and absorbed (along with the Sabah lease deal) into the Spanish colony of the Philippines. Spain and Britain agreed that the Sabah lease deal could continue and that Sabah would continue to be controlled by the British colony of Malaya. The U.S. took over the Philippines fifteen years later and put down a rebellion by the Sultan’s followers. The Philippines became independent in 1946, and inherited what used to be the Sultanate of Sulu and the many Moslems in southwestern Philippines who supported the descendants of the Sultans and the claims on Sabah. Meanwhile Sabah became part of the new nation (formed from British Malaya) of Malaysia in the 1960s. Throughout all this the lease remained, as did the popular goal (in the Philippines) of ending the lease and regaining control of Sabah.
March 24, 2013: In Malaysia troops encountered two armed Filipinos in Sabah and killed them. Two Filipino civilians also died in the crossfire.
March 23, 2013: In the south (Basilan) Abu Sayyaf released an Australian man it had been holding for 15 months. The Islamic terrorists were persuaded to accept a $97,000 ransom the captive’s family had raised. The Australian and Filipino governments have a policy of not paying ransom to Islamic terrorists. Abu Sayyaf had originally demanded two million dollars but decided to accept the lower amount rather than kill the captive (which they often do when the ransom does not come through) and risk a major military operation to find the murderers.
March 20, 2013: Malaysia is charging eight of the Filipinos it captured (after the failed invasion of Sabah) with terrorism. This could result in the death penalty. Nine Malaysian soldiers and police were killed by the invaders.
March 19, 2013: The navy has increased patrols in the southwest to prevent any more armed Filipinos to travel to Sabah in Malaysia. Sabah and the Philippines are separated by a hundred kilometers of open sea.