Malaysian authorities apprehend a Chinese ship suspected of stealing British WW2 ruins.
Malaysian authorities have apprehended a Chinese-registered vessel suspected of stealing two British World War II shipwrecks.
The bulk carrier was apprehended on Sunday for unlawfully mooring in the South China Sea.
Ammunition thought to be from the sunk Japanese ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse more than 80 years ago was discovered on board.
The suspected invasion was previously criticized by the UK Ministry of Defence as a “desecration” of naval war graves.
Scavengers have been targeting ancient shipwrecks for low-radiation steel and scrap metal for years.
Their last resting place is on the bottom of the South China Sea, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Malaysia.
The Royal Navy battleships sent to Singapore during the war to beef up Malaya’s defenses were sunk by Japanese torpedoes on December 10, 1941.
The hit, which took place just three days after the US fleet was attacked in Pearl Harbour, killed 842 sailors and is regarded as one of the worst disasters in British naval history.
Last month, fishermen and divers alerted Malaysian officials to the existence of a foreign vessel.
On Sunday, local marine authorities arrested the Chinese ship. The ship, registered in Fuzhou, was carrying 32 crew members, according to the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
During an investigation of the vessel, cannon shells “suspected to be from World War Two” were discovered. Malaysian authorities are also looking into the origins of the ammo.
The MMEA further stated that it is linked to a stash of unexploded ordnance, allegedly from the two sunken warships, that authorities discovered earlier this month from a private scrap yard in the southern state of Johor.
During a tour of Malaysia in 2017, a local diver showed then-Prince Charles images of scavenger damage to the HMS Prince of Wales.
At the time, the Defence Secretary responded by declaring that the UK will engage with the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia to examine reports that up to six British warships had been robbed in their waters.