Mat Sabu: Malaysia relies on defence diplomacy to protect itself from US-China spat

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu answers questions during Bicara Minda at Dewan Karangkraf in Shah Alam March 8, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu answers questions during Bicara Minda at Dewan Karangkraf in Shah Alam March 8, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

SHAH ALAM, March 8 — Mohamad Sabu said Malaysia must utilise “defence diplomacy” as its weapon of choice in light of China flexing its military and economic muscles which has led to the trade war with the United States.

Speaking at the Bicara Minda discussion organised by Sinar Harian today, the defence minister said, in the event of an escalation between East and West, both superpowers will start looking for proxy nations in the region.

“China has become a new superpower in terms of the economy and military. It is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and the US is challenging China. We are stuck in the middle. So, we need defence diplomacy with China and the US because if they fight, they will start creating proxies.

“We don’t want to be their proxies. We want to be their friends and build up the economy, wealth and resources in this region. We cannot declare war on China. If that happens, the entire region will suffer losses,” he replied to a question by moderator Tan Sri Johan Jaafar.

However, he pointed out that the biggest threat against Malaysia is not China but terror attacks.

Mohamad, who is fondly known as Mat Sabu or Abang Mat, said terrorism is the latest threat facing Malaysia.

He explained that the military does not know where terrorists have training camps and they can launch an attack at any time in any place.

“This threat is always being monitored either by the Home Ministry through the police or our own military intelligence. We always monitor these groups so they will not grow and spread to become a direct threat to the nation,” he said.

As part of the country’s preparation, Mohamad wants to ensure that every Malaysian soldier is trained under his vision of “Army for the Next Generation”.

Under this concept, every soldier must be a versatile expert and trained beyond a normal rank and file grunt with command of multiple modern disciplines including cyber warfare while being able to think independently and strategically in the event that his officer’s chain of command is disrupted, he added.

When Johan asked if Malaysia’s Army of Next Generation has enough equipment and mental preparation, Mohamad replied in the negative, adding that continuous improvement is needed from time to time.

Touching on the upcoming Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (Lima) from March 26 to March 30, the minister said this year’s fair is the biggest, with 109 per cent bookings.

The biggest pavilion this year belongs to Turkey and many defence ministers around the region including those from Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore will be attending.

At the exhibition, Mohamad plans to increase Malaysia’s stake in the defence industry supply chain.

“We need to further develop our defence industry. This doesn’t mean we build our own jet fighters but instead we build parts and components for jet fighter engines or maybe wings. We already have an electronic sector that builds microchips which is used worldwide.

“We can take advantage of that and develop our defence industry,” he said.

Related Articles