Thu, Mar 17, 2016 - Page 6 News List

Malaysia, Australia to discuss Chinese island moves

Reuters, KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Hussein said he would meet his Australian counterpart next week to discuss China’s military buildup in the disputed South China Sea and hold talks with fellow claimants the Philippines and Vietnam.

China claims most of the energy-rich waters through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also have claims.

Beijing is feeling public pressure at home to show it can protect its claims to the waters after the US began conducting “freedom of navigation” operations near islands where China has been carrying out controversial reclamation work and stationing advanced weapons.

Hishammuddin said he would meet Australian Minister of Defense Marise Payne to ensure efforts are made to “hold China to their promise of not placing military assets in the area.”

“If the reports we’ve received from various sources regarding the buildup and placement of military assets in the Spratlys [Spratly Islands, Nansha Islands, 南沙群島] are true — this forces us in a pushback against China,” Hishammuddin told reporters.

The 10-member ASEAN last month said it was “seriously concerned” over developments in the disputed waters, which includes recent missile and fighter jet deployments by China in the Paracel Island (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) chain.

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