Malaysia Splits With ASEAN Claimants on China Sea Threat

August 30, 2013

Hishamuddin Hussein“Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s Minister of Defense, on the sidelines of meetings with counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as the U.S., China and Japan.

Just like Hishammudin who doesn't understand Foreign policy, our youth don't know how to distinguish PCM and China flag !

Just like Hishammudin who doesn’t understand Foreign policy, our youth don’t know how to distinguish PCM and China flag !

MY COMMENT: Our Novice Defense Minister. Hishamuddin Hussein who had mishandled the Lahad Datu incident when he was at the helm of the Home Affairs Ministry, is now causing a serious split within ASEAN over the South China Sea dispute with China. I wonder whether he had consulted the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues especially with Dato Seri Anifah Aman, our Foreign Minister, before making this outrageous statement. 

Our Foreign Minister is hard at work with his ASEAN colleagues to craftAnifah a Code of Conduct which could be then discussed with China. Hishamuddin should understand that no country has the right to send its naval vessels into our territorial waters, no matter how friendly we think the country is towards us. Such incursions can be deemed acts of aggression. We cannot tolerate any violation of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Hishamuddin’s statement does reflect that his lack of understanding of one of the fundamentals in state relations. He is  also not conversant with the South China Sea issue and our foreign policy.

That being the case, he should refrain from making statements that can be detrimental to ASEAN solidarity and our national interest. He should now be asked to clarify his statement, and leave the entire South China Sea issue to our Foreign Minister and his diplomats.–Din Merican

Malaysia Splits With ASEAN Claimants on China Sea Threat

Malaysia is not worried about how often Chinese ships patrol the areas it claims in the waters, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in an interview in Brunei yesterday. Chinese Navy ships in March visited James Shoal off Malaysia, near where Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Petroliam Nasional Bhd (PETRONAS). have oil and gas operations.

“Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies,” Hishammuddin said on the sidelines of meetings with counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as the U.S. The Chinese “can patrol every day, but if their intention is not to go to war” it is of less concern, he said. “I think we have enough level of trust that we will not be moved by day-to-day politics or emotions.”

Malaysia is one of six claimants to land features in the South China Sea, an area where competition for gas and fish has led to boats being rammed and survey cables cut. The Philippines and Vietnam reject China’s map of the sea, first published in the 1940s, as a basis for joint exploration.

“Asean is divided on the South China Sea dispute because all the members have different interests in the South China Sea and their relationships with China also differ,” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “Vietnam and the Philippines see the dispute as a major national security concern while Malaysia and Brunei always downplay tensions.”

U.S. Concerns

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met Hishammuddin today, alongside defense ministers from ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea, for the second ADMM-Plus security summit. Hagel told ministers he was concerned by a rise in maritime incidents and tensions in the waters.

“Actions at sea to advance territorial claims do not strengthen any party’s legal claim,” Hagel said, according to remarks prepared for delivery. “Instead, they increase the risk of confrontation, undermine regional stability, and dim the prospects for diplomacy.”

The situation in the South China Sea is “stable,” said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, after meeting his Thai counterpart Surapong Tovichakchaikul in Beijing today. “Such a stable situation does not come easily and we should dearly cherish it,” he said. “There is no real problem with freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor will there be a problem in the future.”

Defense Spending

An increase in defense spending in the region is “of serious concern to all of us,” Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters in Brunei today, adding he had raised the matter during talks with other ministers. Spending by Asian countries rose 75 percent from 2002 to 2012, compared with 12 percent for the same period in Europe, he said.

“The trend is likely to continue because Asian countries will modernize their militaries as their economies grow,” Ng said. He said Singapore had talked about the need to assure other countries in Asia that this process “will add stability to the region.”

Collaboration Option

Malaysia could consider collaborating on the development of oil and gas resources with China in the area, Hishammuddin said in the interview.

“Provided our friends in ASEAN know, those who have an interest in the region know, and if they want to object, I would like to know why?” Hishammuddin said. “If they’re just objecting for the sake of objecting, that doesn’t make sense.”

China National Offshore Oil Corp. estimates the South China Sea may hold about five times more undiscovered natural gas than the country’s current proved reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In June, Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak called for parties to jointly develop resources to avoid conflict and prevent “extra-regional states” from becoming involved.

Najib cited a joint development zone in waters claimed by Thailand and Malaysia as a precedent that could be applied in the South China Sea. China has agreed to talks on a code of conduct for the area, with discussions to begin in September.

Code of Conduct

“China is somewhat reluctant to reach a consensus on the code of conduct with ASEAN members, if the area covered by the code of conduct is in certain portions of the South China Sea claimed by China,” said Arthur Ding, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Taiwan.

China still calls for disputes to be handled directly by the countries in involved, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan said in Brunei today, speaking through a translator.

China opposes any effort to internationalize, “escalate or complicate the disputes,” Chang said. “These disputes should not and will not undermine the overall relationship between China and ASEAN.”

Hagel will visit Vietnam next year at the invitation of Vietnam’s defense minister, said a senior U.S. defense official who can’t be named according to government policy. Hagel also met his counterpart from Myanmar for talks in Brunei yesterday, the first meeting of top defense figures from the two countries in 20 years, the official said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sharon Chen in Singapore at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at

16 thoughts on “Malaysia Splits With ASEAN Claimants on China Sea Threat

  1. “Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies,” — Hisapmuddin

    Oh yeah?? What about the enemies of my enemies are my friends?

  2. Same as the Sulus who he initially said were old and friends now he says the Chinese can patrol everyday and if their intention is not to go to war walang problema!! Remember it is the same brain that he used in the Sulus case as HM. And he has passed on the same thinking to the present HM. It may not take the mighty China to do us in but even the small red dot in the south can potentially do the same.

  3. The SCS issue is muddled by others as if we are so afraid our CPO goes no where. Also many ASEANs are not involved. Seems like everyone for himself. Spore so far down, no bothered. Its only VN and PL without whole ASEAN endorsement. Sad, very sad…………ASEAN is now kesian. They come together for sports and trade but when territorial disputes; the buck gets passed about. No marbles.

  4. It is a well known fact that ASEAN is now in the deep pockets of Uncle Sam.

    Singapore, Phillipines and Thailand have shamelessly bend over to accommodate Uncle Sam’s whimps and fancies.

    The battle is lost and there is no point in having further dialogues when member states have detracted from their original core principle of neutrality.
    We now have individual members siding with outside powers to pursue their own national economic interests at the expense of regional interests.
    One would think that a peaceful and viable solution will be for all ASEAN claimant states to stand firm and united as a bloc to negotiate and work with China to genuinely come to terms with the situation to pursue a similar North Sea agreement to facilitate joint natural resources exploration for the benefit of all.

  5. We have the ridiculous maps from China that show their “territorial waters” extending all the way deep into the South China Sea.

  6. thats why he watched the Sulu friends visit and have a picnic in Lahad Datu. he pitied them so much because they looked so exhausted and hungry that he ordered lunch packets from MacDonalds and Pizza Hut.
    our enemies are his friends and his own people are his enemies.
    what cranks we have as ministers – does it run in the family or is it the result of…….??

  7. The wide-mouthed Hishamuddin said “Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies,” AS THEY CAN BE MY FRIENDS —the words in capitals were left unsaid.

    Anyway, the USA as the biggest world maritime power is so concerned about freedom of the seas and uninterrupted innocent passages even through territorial waters especially of narrow straits and restricted navigable depths. The Chinese maritime vessels including their naval ships should be given similar freedom of the seas for innocent passages just like ships from other countries too including the USA. In the overall South China Sea region, the territorial sea areas are comparatively much smaller in size than the much more extensive EEZ which, unlike the territorial seas, is freely open to navigation by all nation-states. That is perhaps why Hishamuddin is not too worried about the current situation – but, still, the code of conduct is needed to avoid possible miscalculations or misunderstandings between on-scene naval commanders of different navies at sea.

  8. The Chinese always say that good fortune never last more than 3 generations in the case of Hishammuddin, his grandfather’s intelligence and his own father’s never reached him, the third generation…. lagi bodoh sombong pulak tu….

  9. Agreed with how this is a serious strategic dilemma necessitating ASEAN to become a watchtower mitigating and balancing the two hegemons looking to land on our shores with neoliberal colonialist interests amid the pertinent fascism and crisis of ASEAN’s old south, getting exacerbated by the wider context of Asian geopolitical turmoil.

    It is also the failure and limitation of ASEAN Political & Security Community (together with Environmental Policy coordination) to be addressed at the regional governance level down to our national parliament urgently, inasmuch as the Economic Community is already in the foray of implementation by 2015.

    Digressing but nonetheless important, the loopholes, especially with GST, its tax base & structuring are still too severe to close on any gaps for the out-of-favor middle-class, while the lower-class bracket can only depend on BR1Ms without any perennial social capital values for the lack of proper governance.

  10. I agree with the bloghost. Its a case of verbal diarrhea. Not only does it undermine the foreign minister’s efforts it also undermines Malaysia’s credibility within ASEAN.

  11. “Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies” – well said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s Minister of Defense.

    Only two Asean members: Philippines, the trouble maker and Vietnam have serious disputes with China over South China Sea; the rest, i.e. the majority don’t.

    It is wrong for the minority who wanted to GANG UP together with the majorities who don’t have disputes against China. Moreover, Asean is just an association not a sovereignty state.

    The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and we Malaysia should individually settle the disputes if any with China directly and amicably.

  12. This is the BIGGEST issue in ASEAN history.

    Suddenly VN and PL are alone to battle PRC and they have the US on their side while we as their neighbors have selfishly avoided.

    They might be asking why should they be member of ASEAN if there is no concerted voice to protect our seas.

    What IF VN and PL breaks away from ASEAN? As it is, PL enjoys much patronage from US. VN of late has lots of trade benefit from the US and its friends. So, what benefits that to be in ASEAN?

  13. Is China really the enemy of the Asean? If so, then why is China the number one trading partner of Malaysia, Myanmar and possibly Laos and Cambodia? It is a rising partner with Indonesia and not to say it is a strong partner of Singapore, Thailand. China basically owns the Asean in terms of economic conquest. It is not wrong for the minister – who I never defended – to state China is not the enemy…given the fact that Malaysia depends largely on China for its exports and Malaysia’s market volatility will be worst if it was to confront China on the South China sea where – lets face it – the country has all the rights to be dominant!

  14. China in facts is a protector of Asean, not enemy as shown in 1998 Asian Financial crisis attacked by US.

    Also in fact, China peacefully and successfully settled border disputes with small and big countries like Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia, Myanmar, etc on bilateral basis. Same basis can be applied to Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

    China has no problem with the majority of Asean members.

    “Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies” – well said by Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s Minister of Defense!

    When China is strong during Admiral Zheng He’s navy voyaged to the South China Sea 7 times up to Africa, China did not colonized Asean and Africa, but when China was weak and in miserable period, Asia and Africa fell as the West colonized almost the whole Asia and Africa !!

  15. “ignorance of the law excuse no one”. Malaysia’s defense minister is very ignorant about international laws esp. UNCLOS. Not because china has military might, they can do whatever they can in other countries EEZ. He should think his words very carefully.
    Is it OK for him if china build their Naval Post in Malaysian shores?

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