SINGAPORE, Oct 21 — Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said Malaysia would continue to insist on the South China Sea to remain a free zone from any military competition and enhancement.
Speaking to Bernama, Mohamad said Malaysia was firm on its stance despite the big powers, like the United States and China, giving their assurance to make the international route a safe area.
Concerns on this cropped up again following a near collision between a US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea last September 30.
Mohamad said the call for the South China Sea to remain a safe zone had been made by Malaysia since during the time of second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.
“We want the super powers to respect the South China Sea as a neutral and safe area,” he added.
Mohamad, who has been here since October 18, reiterated Malaysia’s warm defence relations with Singapore in his introductory visit to the republic.
He also attended the 12th Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and the fifth ADMM-Plus hosted by Singapore for two days from October 19.
Mohamad said that in open forums, the super powers always expressed their respect for the laws of international waters, but the reality was otherwise.
“That is what they said, but in reality, like what happened recently, the near-collision involving two warships in Spratly island in the South China Sea.
“All Asean countries, including its chairman Singapore said that if a collision occurred on that day, the ADMM meeting would turn out differently,” he said.
While in the republic, Mohamad called on his Singapore counterpart Dr Ng Eng Hen last Thursday and also spent some time visiting the Information Fusion Centre at Changi Naval Base, where he also interacted with Malaysian troops participating in Exercise Bersama Lima.
He also visited the 3rd Singapore Division, where he was briefed on the Singapore Army and also viewed a static display of Army assets and weapon systems, as well as embarked on a familiarisation ride on the Light Strike Vehicle Mark II.
Mohamad also paid a courtesy call on Acting Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. — Bernama