Ops Hadir: Malaysia in conjunction with the CIA run operations in the South China Sea
A great strategic benefit to the Malaysian government
According to Darilaut.ID and other sources, the Research Division of the Prime Minister’s Department, also known as the Malaysian External Intelligence Organization (MEIO) is undertaking joint operations with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the South China Sea, in areas adjacent to Sarawak. The aim of these missions, which were initially planned under the Ismail Sabri Yaacob administration, and actually commenced just after Anwar Ibrahim became prime minister are to assist in maintaining Malaysian sovereignty in disputed areas sea areas, and continue US operations to enforce the ‘rules based order’ within the South China Sea.
In addition to monitoring warships and fishing vessels in the regions, the project is leveraging support from parties like Petronas, and the Sarawak Coast Guard to track movements of the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG), Chinese Maritime Military (CMM), and Vietnamese and Philippine fishing vessels.
In a second part of the project, hydrological data, mineral and seismic maps are being developed in disputed areas, where there are territorial disputes. Markers have been set on Petronas sea platforms and sovereign markers laid be China and Vietnam removed.
These operations come at a time when Malaysia is finding it more difficult to fend of Chinese incursions into disputed territories, and tension between China and the United States is on the increase.
The defence minister Mohamed Hassan said Malaysia is deploying more than naval forces to undertake surveillance in areas like Beting Patinggi Ali (Luconia Shoals), Terumbu Laksamana, Terumbu Siput, Terumbu Perahu, Pulau Kecil Amboyna, Terumbu Semarang Barat Kecil dan Blok Ambalat. Questioning the Prime Minister’s Department did not lead to any denials, just silence. A Diamond Aircraft 42-MPP, modified for surveillance began operations over the South China Sea in December 2022, and continues throughout 2023.
Diamond Aircraft 42-MPP
Ops Hadir, the name given to the joint operations indicates that the Research Division of the Prime Minister’s Department and the CIA are carrying out direct activities within the South China Sea, rather than the direct maritime, military and coast guard bodies, usually responsible. These Research Division/CIA activities very much appear to be through third parties such as the Sarawak Forestry Department, and general aviation contractors.
For Malaysia, this move covers some of the surveillance needs, particularly around the Exclusive Economic Zones (EECs), and for the US is a token part of their plans of containment of Chinese activities within the South China Sea. It’s a reassuring program with the US that seeks to protect Malaysian sovereignty. For the US, there is more symbolic importance that Malaysia is assisting the pursuit of its Indo-Pacific defence policy, even though for the US it is token. Similar operations are going on in the Philippines as well with the Philippines government.
This apparent covert operation is known to the Chinese through their infiltration of the Prime Minister’s Department by the United Front and their own surveillance of the South China Sea to confirm their own HUMINT in Malaysia.
Although Prime Minister Anwar said at the Milken Institute Asia Summit 2023 recently that Malaysia must be fiercely independent as a sovereign nation and should not be forced to choose sides in the escalation of rivalry between the United States and China, the joint program with the United States has many positives. This perhaps created some leverage with China to agree to continuous communications over the South China Sea. If this is the case, then the small investment in Ops Hadir has yielded great diplomatic results, Malaysia may not have achieved without the operation.
Ops Hadir may have been much more advantageous to the Malaysian government, than the US government anticipated.