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Study says Chinese Coast Guard maintains near-constant presence off Borneo

The Luconia Shoals, divided into the North and South Luconia Shoals, and sometimes known as the Luconia Reefs, are one of the largest and least-known reef complexes in the South China Sea. Bing Maps

BEIJING — Vessels from China's coast guard are nearly constantly on station at the Luconia Shoals off the coast of Malaysia's Sarawak State on the island of Borneo, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative under the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The presence of the vessels "speaks to Beijing's determination to establish administrative control throughout the nine-dash line," the report said, referring to China's roughly drawn outline of its South China Sea territorial claim.

The reefs lie between the Spratly chain, where China has been building islands out of reefs and equipping them with airstrips and other military installations, and James Shoal, which Beijing considers the southernmost extent of its territory. The James and Luconia shoals are underwater at high-tide and so cannot be claimed as territory.

The center recorded the presence of coast guard vessels at the shoal beginning from September 2013. Malaysia sent one of its coast guard ships to monitor the presence of the Chinese in January, but its vessels are outclassed by the much larger Chinese vessels. Despite operating within 4 nautical miles (7 kilometers) of each other, there have been no reported confrontations between the vessels, it said.

During a visit to Beijing by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to Beijing in November, the two countries said their navies would cooperate more in the South China Sea, in what was seen as a new attempt by Beijing to dilute U.S. influence in the area.

That included the purchase by Malaysia of four Chinese littoral patrol boats.

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