PM: Sabah abduction possible attempt to strain China-Malaysia ties

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — The late-night abduction at a Sabah resort yesterday could be an attempt to further drive Malaysia and China apart, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak acknowledged today.

Najib noted the abduction of two women, including a Chinese national, came as warm relations between China and Malaysia cooled over a missing Malaysian jet.

He said the abduction could increase the tension between the two countries, but expressed confidence that it would not cause their ties to be weakened.

“This must be avoided. There may be those who are attempting to drive a wedge between us and China. They may be trying to take advantage of the situation,” Najib was quoted saying in Australia by The Star.

Putrajaya has already requested the government of neighbouring Philippines to assist in finding the two women, Najib said.

“I’m not dismissing any possibilities but the priority now is to obtain the release of the victims,” he said.

Najib was speaking after a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on the search for the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 that went missing on March 8.

Emotions have run high in China recently, with some family members of the 153 Chinese nationals on board MH370 accusing Malaysia of hiding the truth over the plane’s fate.

Today, Najib visited the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base in Perth, where the search operations for the MH370 in the Indian Ocean are based at.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks at a breakfast with crews from nations involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce in Perth, April 3, 2014. — Reuters pic
Malaysia's Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks at a breakfast with crews from nations involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines flights MH370 at RAAF Base Pearce in Perth, April 3, 2014. — Reuters pic

China urged Malaysia today to rescue its Chinese citizen from the abductors, adding that it would “follow this incident closely”.

“We sent relevant stuff to the site and ask the local police to make an all-out rescue effort while ensuring the security of Chinese citizens and taking effective measures to safeguard the security of Chinese tourists,” the foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei was quoted saying by newswire AFP.

China today also issued a travel advisory for the area, warning its citizens to “pay attention to personal safety” when visiting Sabah’s dive sites and avoid “remote islands”, AFP said.

Last night at around 10.30pm, a tourist from China and a Filipino resort employee — believed to be aged 29 and 40 respectively — were abducted by a group of armed men from Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna.

Semporna is a coastal town on the east coast of Sabah, part of an area that Malaysia had designated the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) after an intrusion by Sulu gunmen in February last year.

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), which was set up to coordinate security in the east coast of Sabah about a year ago, said it has beefed up security since the abduction last night.

Similar cases have affected the area; in November last year Taiwanese tourist Hsu Li Min was shot dead at the Pom-Pom Island Resort and Spa near Semporna, while his 58-year-old wife Chang An Wei was abducted by gunmen and later rescued by the Philippines authorities on December 20.

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