SINGAPORE: The present political scenario favours Malaysia to play a bigger role in finding an amicable solution with China over the disputes in the South China Sea.
Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) senior analyst Shahriman Lockman said that the current situation was favourable to Malaysia especially due to several factors including close economic ties.
He cited the recent ruling by the Arbitral Tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in The Hague on a case brought by the Philippines against China that favoured the latter.
“Despite China’s action of pushing the ruling aside, the founding of the tribunal is the law and this will definitely help Malaysia.
“It might take a long time but China would have to accept the tribunal’s decision as they will not take any risk of tarnishing their image in the eyes of the world,” he said on the sidelines of a seminar organised by a think tank on South China Sea and regional cooperation and development held here yesterday.
Shahriman, who is the only Malaysian panellist at the event, said that Malaysia has long forged a close economic relationship with China and both countries did not want to harm such good ties.
“Malaysia is China’s third largest trading partner after Japan and South Korea where we must be direct in our approach about the South China Sea.
“The South China Sea is important to Malaysia not only economically but also in terms of movement between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.
Shahriman also commended the Government’s diplomatic approach in handling the issue with their Chinese counterparts to solve the thorny issue.
“However Malaysia must always stand firm on our territory and use various diplomatic channels in expressing our views with China,” he said adding that Asean should come out with a stronger joint statement over the South China Sea.
The one-day event was sponsored by the Institute of Chinese Borderland Studies from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and supported by the China Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies from Nanyang Technological University.
The event was opened by the Information Office of the China’s State Council former director Zhao Qizheng and National University of Singapore director of East Asian Institute Prof Zheng Yongnian.
A total of 15 panel members and 40 participants from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and China are attending the seminar.
Members of the media were only allowed to cover the opening while the rest of the sessions was held behind closed doors.