Malaysia detains Chinese ship suspected of looting British WW2 wrecks

Malaysia has detained a Chinese-registered vessel suspected of looting two British World War Two shipwrecks. The bulk carrier was seized on Sunday for anchoring illegally at the site in the South China Sea. Ammunition believed to be from the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, which were sunk by Japanese forces more than 80 years ago, was then found on board.

The UK Ministry of Defence had earlier condemned the alleged raid as a “desecration” of maritime war graves.

Old shipwrecks are targeted by scavengers for their rare low-background steel, also known as “pre-war steel”. The low radiation in the steel makes it a rare and valuable resource for use in medical and scientific equipment.

The British vessels, on the bed of the ocean some 100km (60 miles) off the east coast of Malaysia, had been targeted for decades.

The Royal Navy battleships were dispatched to Singapore during the war to shore up the defence of Malaya. They were sunk by Japanese torpedoes on 10 December 1941.

The strike – which occurred just three days after the attack on the US fleet in Pearl Harbour – killed some 842 sailors and is considered one of the worst disasters in British naval history.



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