PETALING JAYA: Malaysia says the presence of warships and vessels in the South China Sea has the potential to increase tensions that may affect peace, security and stability in the region.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (pic) said the government’s position on the South China Sea “is clear and consistent”.
“Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, all parties must work together to maintain peace, security and stability in the South China Sea and increase efforts to maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence.“Malaysia remains firm in its commitment to safeguard its interests and rights in the South China Sea, ” he said yesterday.
Reuters reported on April 18 that the Haiyang Dizhi 8, a Chinese government survey ship, was tagging West Capella, an exploration vessel operated by Petronas, in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
The report said the area was close to waters claimed by both Vietnam and Malaysia as well as China.
Al Jazeera reported that two US warships, the USS America and USS Bunker Hill, have sailed near the Haiyang Dizhi 8 and West Capella.
China has said that the Haiyang Dizhi 8 was conducting “normal activities”.
Hishammuddin said Malaysia was of the view that the South China Sea should remain a zone of peace and trade.
“Matters relating to the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully based on principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, ” he added.
He said that as a former defence minister, he was conscious of the situation, adding that it was paramount to “avoid unintended, accidental incidents in these waters”.
“While international law guarantees the freedom of navigation, the presence of warships in the South China Sea has the potential to increase tensions that may result in miscalculations which may affect peace, security and stability in the region.
“Our stance is that any dispute should be resolved amicably through peaceful means, diplomacy and mutual trust by all the concerned parties.
“Just because we have not made a public statement does not mean we have not been working on all the above-mentioned. We have open and continuous communication with all the relevant parties, including China and the US, ” he said.
In Kota Kinabalu, former foreign minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia must not stay silent over the presence of China’s survey vessels in the South China Sea.
He said safeguarding, protecting and promoting Malaysia’s strategic interests must be the guiding principle for the government.
“Our inaction may be construed as agreement by interested parties and would be detrimental to our strategic interests.
“Our inaction may compel other parties to take certain actions which would further complicate matters and jeopardise peace, security and stability in our maritime areas and the region as a whole, ” he said.
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