Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said ASEAN countries must continue to strengthen their relationship to prevent the occurrence of any disputes that may affect harmony, peace and security in the South China Sea.
Citing the Malaysia-Indonesia-Philippines trilateral agreement initiative concerning security in the Sulu Sea, Hishammuddin said it showed that ASEAN countries are able to resolve any contentious issue without outside interference.
“We cannot afford to face the major world powers (individually) but we can jointly as ASEAN member countries,” he told reporters after attending a volunteer appreciation ceremony organised by Institute Onn Jaafar (IOJ), here Sunday.
He said this when asked to comment on the seizure of an underwater drone belonging to the United States (US) military in international waters in the South China Sea by the Chinese navy recently, which has only further raised tensions in the area.
“I have asked Royal Malaysian Navy chief, Admiral Tan Sri Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin to be a ‘point person’ (on this issue) because he has direct contact with China and the US,” said Hishammuddin.
Hishammuddin said Malaysia would also write a letter to his counterpart in China, General Chang Wanquan for clarification on alleged placement of military assets of the republic in seven artificial islands in the South China Sea as was disclosed by US-based non-governmental organisation, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), recently.
“I agree with the Philippine government’s stance recently that the placement of military assets needs to be confirmed by the country involved through official channels,” he said.
He added that any incidents involving the the dissemination of information relating to ASEAN countries, especially through social media must be given special attention in order to avoid problems and polemics between the ASEAN countries.
In another development, Hishammuddin said the IOJ volunteer programme showed encouraging development with youth participation reaching 17,000, to help the needy, since the institution was established two years ago. — Bernama