‘Malaysia’s stability crucial to keep Asia Pacific safe’

SINGAPORE: Political stability in Malaysia is important in dealing with the situation in the Asia Pacific because the development of national defence capabilities takes a long time, says Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.

“This requires consistent policy support to ensure the implementation of the Defence White Paper runs smoothly and is on schedule in ensuring that Malaysia remains sovereign, safe and prosperous,” the Defence Minister said.

He was commenting on the question of whether the effect of US-China tensions on the Asia-Pacific region requires political stability in countries, including Malaysia, to face any future possibility.

Mohamad was speaking to Bernama at the end of the three-day 20th Shangri-la Dialogue defence summit here, which started on Friday.

Outside the event, he also held bilateral meetings with counterparts from several countries, including US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese State Councillor and National Defence Minister Gen Li Shangfu.

Asked if Malaysia had voiced hopes and concerns to the representatives of the two superpowers, Mohamad said Malaysia had emphasised the importance of “Asean Centrality, Zopfan and SEANWFZ” in dealing with the South China Sea issue.

“It is to ensure peace and stability in the South-East Asian region.

“Malaysia also stated its position as a neutral and trading nation that will not take sides and will be friends with all countries,” he said.

Zopfan, or Zone of Peace, Freedom, and Neutrality, is a declaration signed by the Foreign Ministers of the Asean member states – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – in 1971 in Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile, the SEANWFZ, or South-East Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, also known as the 1995 Bangkok Treaty, is a nuclear weapons moratorium agreement between 10 South-East Asian member countries under the auspices of Asean.

Mohamad was also asked to comment on developments involving the US forging closer cooperation with its friends and allies “by doubling alliances and partnerships” in the Asia Pacific region.

He said that Malaysia, as a partner to the US, welcomed their presence in South-East Asia and would increase defence cooperation with the superpower through a memorandum of understanding expected to be signed at the end of this year

“Malaysia also receives benefits from the US through the Building Partners Capacity programme, especially to improve maritime domain awareness in the South China Sea,” he said.

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