Malaysia Dateline

For Asean, China’s ships needs to get out first

It is true, although increasingly spurious—-based on the latest reports on China’s coast guards in Malaysian waters, with some 89 encroachments into the Exclusive Economic Zones of Malaysia between 2016-2019—-that China is no longer a pacific, necessarily peace able, power (Source: Click)

China Coastguard (CCG) vessels have also maintained a near-constant presence in the Malaysia-claimed waters near Luconia Shoals so far this year.

This is according to data obtained from the ship-tracking service MarineTraffic by Malaysiakini, which is based on satellite monitoring of Automatic Identification System (AIS) broadcasts from the vessels (Source: Click)

Since the National Audit Department (NAD) said the China Coast Guard (CCG) and People’s Liberation Army Navy (Plan) was recorded encroaching Malaysian waters 89 times between 2016 and 2019, the Malaysian authorities have tried to spring into action.

According to the audit report, the Malaysian Navy had responded by chasing away the intruders and demanding the Foreign Ministry take action.

Six diplomatic protests were lodged within the relevant period. However, the CCG and Plan continue to encroach the area. To make matters worse, the Foreign Minister Hishamuddin Hussein has taken lightly of the matter by saying that no Chinese vessels has been sighted in Malaysian waters “over the last one hundred days” since the new Malaysian governnent was formed (Source:
Click).

When six diplomatic notes were sent yet the Foreign Minister Hishamuddin Hussein does not acknowledge the “sightings,” he has neutralized the efforts of the whole Ministry of Foreign Affairs if not the governnent.

Not surprisingly, the former foreign minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, has averred that the current foreign minister “is in denial,” which was again reported in Malaysian press. Datuk Anifah Aman has gone so far to say that Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein is undermining the “national and strategic interest” of Malaysia (Source: Click).

Indeed, the issue of encroachment is no longer something which Malaysia can hide to the public to protect the “face” of China in the name of not antagonizing a bigger power.

The auditor-general has noted that the Chinese government repeatedly ignored all protest notes on the incursions.

According to the NAD report titled “Ministry Activities/Federal Government Department and Statutory Body 2018 Series 3” which had been released, the auditor-general said 72 incursions were by the CCG while 17 were by Plan (People’s Liberation Navy).

As things stand, China is various working group and Asean leaders meetings on a new Code of Conduct on South China Sea which has to be completed by 2021. ASEAN Secretariat is clueless if by 2021, means the end of 2020 this year, or, sometime into 2021.

When things are so confusing, with an Asean Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi who has said nothing of substance on South China Sea over the last two and a half years, the negotiations on the Code of Conduct would always be “stuck” at working groups.

Key words such as “substantial progress” which was used in the working group meeting in July 2019 last year between China and member states of ASEAN in Penang island, has been erased and taken out by the ASEAN Leaders Summit in Bangkok last December 2020.

Such ambiguity on anyone’s part is not good. It destroys and erodes the spirit of good will, between member states of ASEAN and China, leading to foreign powers entering the waters to insist on their right to the freedom of navigation.

The end result is nothing less than a train wreck in policy outcomes that all leaders and officials have to be responsible for, even though Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China has time and again reassured everyone that China is an actor of peace.

This can be true in light of the fact that China has not gone to war with any member states of ASEAN in more than forty years. But in the era of Coronavirus, the focus should be on a win-win outcome placed squarely on the future.

As Professor He Kai at Griffith University affirmed in South China Morning Post, that when China feels the “world is against it,” it helps for China to seek some serious self-introspection (Source: Click).