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Malaysia started its claim to the Spratlys in 1979, being the most recent among all claimants. By publishing on December 21, 1979 a new map on its territorial waters and continental shelf boundaries, Malaysia staked its claims to about a dozen tiny reefs and atolls in the southeastern portion of the Spratly Islands including Commodore Reef, Amboyna Cay, Southwest Shoal, Ardasier Breaker, Gloucestere Breakers, Mariveles Reef, Barque Canada Reef, Lizzie Weber Reef, Northeast Shoal, Glasgow Shoal and North Viper Shoal.
Malaysia's publishing of the 1979 new map was protested by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and also raised disputes with Singapore and Indonesia over some islands and reefs appeared in this map for the first time.
Malaysia insisted these islands and reefs are within its proclaimed 200 nautical mile EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and should be under Malaysian jurisdiction.
Malaysia protested against Vietnam when the latter occupied Amboyna Cay, and it started armed occupation itself in the Spratlys of Swallow Reef in June 1983 when the Five-Power Defence Arrangement held a naval exercise in the South China Sea. Following that Malaysia renamed the Swallow Reef to Terumbu Layang-Layang or Pulau Layang-Layang and established a permanent military presence there. In mid-1990s Malaysia developed the atoll into a island resort as an exercise to enhance its claim over this feature.
Beside Swallow Reef, it is reported that Malaysia has further occupied Dallas Reef (Guangxingzai Jiao, renamed to Terumbu Ubi by Malaysia), Mariveles Reef (Nanhai Jiao, renamed to Terumbu Mantanani by Malaysia) and six other islets.
Malaysia's claim is presumably based on the conviction that the islands are situated on its continental shelf, well within its declared exclusive economic zone (EEZ), security and its proximity to the mainland.
However, the problem with Malaysia's claim is that "land decides sea" but not the opposite. Malaysia claims the features because these features sit within its unilaterally proclaimed continental shelf and EEZ.
At the same time, security and proximity are neither legal basis for claim of islands, similary to the Philippines' claims in the Spratly Islands.
For the Spratly Islands case, China has put the South China Sea Islands under its jurisdiction and never given it up. Thus the future boundary between China and Malaysia should lie somewhere between China's Spratly Islands and Malaysia's coastal line, in accordance with international law.
With its advantage of geographic location to the Spratlys, Malaysia has been actively exploiting the oil and gas resources in the Spratly Islands area, especially the Zengmu Ansha (James Shoal) area and the Nankang Ansha (south Luconia Shoal) area. Malaysia has benifited the most from the exploitation of the natural resources in Spratlys.
Malaysia has been reluctant on the "Shelving Disputes and Joint Development" proposed by China, especially for the development of the area where Malaysia has developed to oil and gas fields.
Out of its economic and security motives, Malaysia entered the Spratly Islands dispute, making it more complex. Malaysia is reluctant in "Joint development" of the Spratly Islands area but is actively exploiting the resources itself and trying to enhance its claim over the area through military occupation and development.
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