MANILA - Amid intensifying territorial disputes with China and new uncertainty over the US's military commitment to the region, the Philippines strategic headaches have been further complicated by the unfolding crisis in Sabah, Malaysia.
Malaysian armed forces are now engaged in a full-scale mopping up operation against followers of the Philippines-based Sulu Sultanate, which launched a rag-tag occupation of a remote area of the Malaysian state to assert Sultan Jamalul Kiram's historical claims to the territory. After a long stand-off, Malaysian forces assaulted and killed several members of Kiram's non-state Royal Security Forces (RSF).
The violence now threatens to spiral with an estimated 800,000 Filipinos among Sabah's 3.2 million population and signs of insurgent-style attacks outside of the initial occupation area. The crisis has ignited popular calls for a re-assertion of Philippine historical claims to Sabah, an oil-rich, ethnically diverse state on the island of Borneo that historically has had an uneasy relationship with the Malaysian federal government in Kuala Lumpur.Read more.