KUALA LUMPUR, July 17 — Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he does not view China as a threat to Malaysia despite the Asian superpower’s aggressive expansion in the South China Sea.
Dr Mahathir, known for his antagonistic views against China’s rival superpower US, said China has been non-threatening to Malaysia for centuries.
“I don’t think of China as a threat. We have lived with other big countries, powerful countries which threatened us but for hundreds of years, China has not threatened us,” the 90-year-old statesman told Phoenix Satellite TV in a video interview that was uploaded on the Hong Kong-based broadcaster’s website yesterday.
Asean has been wary of China’s plans in carrying out land reclamation works to enlarge islands and runway-building on a coral reef in the South China Sea, where several nations including Malaysia are disputing territorial rights.
Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines all stake a claim in parts of the South China Sea, but China has claimed sovereignty over four-fifths of the sea according to a 1940 map.
China’s aggressive expansion measures have sparked fears that it may pose a threat to peace and stability in the region.
Malaysia, which maintains cordial ties with trade partners China and US, appears to prefer avoiding a confrontational stance with the former.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who currently chairs Asean, said in April that Southeast Asian nations will continue to be non-confrontational with China over the South China Sea dispute and seek the quick drawing-up of a Code of Conduct for the area.
US paper The Wall Street Journal reported Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman as saying last April that Asean is “not confrontational” and that it wants to engage with China.
Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Malaysia’s diplomatic ties with China, with the friendship between the two nations initiated by Najib’s father, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.