Malaysia to put its interests as priority in South China Sea issues – Hishammuddin

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Malaysia will continue to put its interests as priority in matters related to the South China Sea, and see that the matter be dealt rationally and constructively with parties involved, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

He also emphasised on Malaysia’s commitment towards the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) and the conclusion of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (CoC) to resolve the conflicts, which involved overlapping territorial claims by several countries.

“It is important that we continue to talk and discuss about it, there are mechanisms, we talk about the Code of Conduct, about the DoC which is a positive and constructive way forward, the ASEAN way to resolve the issue,” he told reporters in a news conference after attending a series of meetings related to the 37th ASEAN Summit here, Tuesday.

He added that it is also important for ASEAN to ‘sort out and get our house in order first’ in navigating the issue of South China Sea.

“So the first step is to deal with our members in ASEAN. Then with regards to the US on South China Sea, we will see what is the policy with the new (US) administration, then we have to see what is the stance, with regards to the other superpower up north,” he said.

The strategic waterway of South China Sea have become a focal point of contention between the US and China which saw both the countries continue to compete in asserting their influence and dominance.

ASEAN countries, namely Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and non-ASEAN countries China and Taiwan, are involved in the complex overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

On the election of Joe Biden, the new president-elect of the United States following the presidential election on Nov 3, Hishammuddin said “Malaysia will need to understand the new administration as quick as possible” and to continue engaging it in a wide range of areas of the bilateral ties.

“It is important to find areas where we can agree upon and those that we cannot, and that they have to know what our position is whether on issue of the industry, whether there is an issue of the economy or issues of security and the issue of relationships on geopolitical considerations in the South China Sea, for example.

“So yes, it’s quite interesting that we need to engage the United States, with the new administration,” he said.

On another development, Hishammuddin said ASEAN must work collectively and outside the box in finding solutions in facing the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hishammuddin said Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will lead the Malaysian delegation to attend the 37th ASEAN Summit virtually from the capital from Thursday to Sunday.

This year’s conference, hosted by Vietnam with the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, has to be held virtually due to the pandemic. BERNAMA

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