KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has denied offering the facilities of a naval base in Sabah to house a US-owned aircraft P-8A Poseidon, said Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein (pic).
Hishammuddin said applications to house any aircraft in any naval base must be sent to the Malaysian authorities first and details of the applications will be scrutinised by the Foreign Ministry first before any approval is given.
"Any approval is done on a case by case basis, for example, the time when the search mission for the MH370 was done in the South China Sea.
"Moreover, the naval base in Sabah does not have the facilities to place such an aircraft," said Hishammuddin in response to Er Teck Hwa (DAP-Bakri) in the Dewan Thursday.
Er had asked if Malaysia had offered the facilities to host the P-8A, following a statement by US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert and how long will the aircraft would be placed in Sabah.
Hishammuddin said Greenert's statement was misconstrued and the latter had also clarified on the matter.
"There was no deployment or detachment of the P-8A, it is only done on a case by case basis," said Hishammuddin.
It was reported last month that Greenert said his remark had been quoted out of context.
Hishammuddin said there have been joint training programmes between Malaysia and the United States annually based on a memorandum of understanding signed in 1990.
He explained cooperation on joint military training is also not done on ad-hoc basis but it goes through certain processes including MoUs on these joint trainings.
"All Malaysian military personnel are also briefed on the dos and don’ts and told to always practise the principle of ‘need to know basis’ when conducting operations with foreign military to prevent any leakage of the country's secrets," said Hishammuddin.
He said the latest exercise involved the Malaysian army based in Pengkalan Chepa camp in Kelantan and the US Army Pacific Command was conducted from Sept 13-26.
Hishammuddin said the training was on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and involved 795 army personnel from Malaysia and the US.
He said the Keris Strike Exercise in Kelantan recently was an exercise based on an agreement with the United States, and it was a routine thing.
“In fact, this is the 18th time the Keris Strike Exercise was held there.
“I think the reason this became an issue now is because this one involved Terengganu as well.
“This is a normal exercise, and I urge the public not to be carried away with bits of information that have not been cleared up on the ministry’s side,” he later told reporters at the Parliament lobby.
The exercise from Sept 13 to Sept 26 involved 540 United States Army Pacific Command (USARPAC) from Hawaii and 638 Malaysian army personnel.
It is aimed at improving knowledge and experience in managing natural disasters.