KOTA KINABALU: Australia’s travel advisory to its citizens to avoid areas on Sabah’s east coast will remain until there is no more threat of cross-border kidnappings.
Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Rod Smith said the advisory was necessary due to such incidents over the years in the area.
But the advisory encouraged Australians to visit Kota Kinabalu and other areas of the state.
Smith said it was hard to predict when the advisory would be lifted.
He said the Australian government has seen the increased security on the east coast by Malaysia and hoped it would reduce the threat.
“If you look at our travel advice, I would like to emphasise that it does distinguish between the eastern part of Sabah where the kidnappings happened and the rest of Sabah where we do not have such concerns.
“We are very encouraging of Australians visiting Kota Kinabalu and the western part of Sabah,” he said yesterday.
The kidnappings were by Abu Sayyaf militants based in the southern Philippines, seeking to ransom the captives.
Smith, who was on a three-day visit to the state where he met with Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman on Tuesday, said about 500,000 Australians had visited Malaysia.
On the territorial and jurisdiction disputes in the South China Sea, he said Canberra was not taking sides but has a strong interest in maintaining and protecting free navigation in the area for trade purposes.
“We have made a clear call to all claimants to clarify their claims and to pursue resolution through mechanisms available under international laws of the sea and convention.
“We are on record expressing concern over the scale and pace of China’s reclamation activities,” he said, adding that such actions were not good for peace and stability in the region.
Smith said Australia was very keen “to do what we can to encourage” all countries in the region to work together to resolve those claims.
His trip coincided with a visit by Australian warship HMAS Anzac which will be in Kota Kinabalu for three days until May 28.
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