KUALA LUMPUR: All countries involved in the South China Sea claim dispute must reduce the number of warships in the area to ensure peace and stability, says Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Mohamad Alamin.
He said the presence of warships in large numbers had the potential to increase international tension and threaten national security.
Therefore, he said, the issue of China's claims in the South China Sea that overlapped with Malaysia’s maritime area needed to be handled effectively and every action taken was based on comprehensive consideration.
"The presence and number of warships in maritime areas such as the South China Sea also has the potential to increase tension and may threaten peace, security and stability.
"Therefore, the government takes the position that all countries need to reduce the presence of warships in the South China Sea to ensure peace, stability and avoid tension.
"Malaysia is committed to dealing with the South China Sea issue constructively according to appropriate diplomatic forums and channels in defending the country's sovereignty and interests.
"The government should take a cautious attitude and avoid actions that could increase tension as well as unwanted incidents occurring in national waters," he said during the winding-up session for the ministry in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Sept 19).
The issue of the South China Sea cropped up recently after China's Ministry of Natural Resources released a new map showing the area of most of Malaysia's waters near Sabah and Sarawak included as the country's territory.
Wisma Putra previously said that Malaysia does not recognise China's claims in the South China Sea as outlined in the "China Standard Map Edition 2023" which covers the country's maritime area.
Mohamad Alamin said China's unilateral maritime claims are not binding on Malaysia, adding that the country consistently rejected foreign claims of sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the country's maritime areas based on the New Map of Malaysia 1979.
Following that, he said Malaysia submitted a protest note to China on Sept 11, adding that China’s claims are inconsistent with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982.
In response to a question from Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (PN-Kubang Kerian), who asked the government to reveal the Sulawesi Sea treaty signed by Malaysia and Indonesia, Mohamad Alamin said this was not possible at the moment.
“I would like to explain that due to the different ratification processes by the two countries, the documents cannot yet be shared with the public.
“Based on international practice, after both countries have completed the ratification process based on their respective domestic laws, only then can the documents be shared with the public,” he added.
Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal (PN-Machang) then suggested that the government discuss the matter in Parliament, as Indonesia was doing.
“If Indonesia goes through that process, why shouldn’t we? I’m sure that the Sabah MPs will support me on this,” Wan Ahmad Fayhsal said.
However, Mohamad Alamin pointed out that as per normal practice, treaty documents would not be made public until Malaysia and Indonesia have completed their ratification processes in accordance with domestic laws.
“It is not Malaysia’s practice to do the ratification in Parliament. There is a proper forum for this and it is not out in the open because we have to take care of sensitivities since the treaty involves other countries,” he added.