ASEAN powerless to stop China’s incursions, says Dr Mahathir

March 3, 2016

ASEAN powerless to stop China’s incursions, says Dr Mahathir

by Bloomberg

From Manila to Hanoi, protests have been mounted against China’s encroachments into the disputed South China Sea. – AFP file pic, March 3, 2016.From Manila to Hanoi, protests have been mounted against China’s encroachments into the disputed South China Sea. – AFP file pic, March 3, 2016.

Southeast Asian nations are hemmed in on the disputed South China Sea, avoiding confronting China because of its sheer clout, according to former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

While countries like Malaysia may risk further Chinese encroachments by not taking a tougher stance on their claims, there are few alternatives, Dr Mahathir said in a February 25 interview with Bloomberg Television in Kuala Lumpur.

“Can ASEAN go to war with China?” Dr Mahathir asked.“We are dealing with a very powerful country. We can’t tell them ‘look, don’t do this, don’t do that, or I will bash your head’.”

China is the largest trading partner of the 10-member ASEAN and has pledged sorely needed infrastructure investment funds to the region as part of its plan to build a new maritime “Silk Road” trading route from China to the Middle East and onto Europe.

That economic clout gives it sway in its territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia over the South China Sea, a key maritime artery for trade and energy shipments. China’s trading influence is increasingly matched by an expanded naval presence in the region, with missiles, fighter jets and radar operating from some reefs and islands it controls.

Diplomacy, not another war in Southeast Asia, Mr. Mahathir. ASEAN needs to persuade China to sign the Code of Conduct. Wrong  assessment. China cannot afford to go to war with the US and its allies over the South China Sea. Even the Chinese economy is vulnerable since it is dependent on the US market and ASEAN.  

The US will remain the most powerful military for a long time to come. A  respected and erudite Singaporean political strategist–analyst told me that Chinese leaders are more concerned about the survival of its Communist Party than going to war with the United States over the South China Sea and  Freedom of navigation. China will, however, test the resolve of the claimant states like Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Philippines, and Japan (0ver Senkaku Islands ( Senkaku-shotō?, variants: 尖閣群島 Senkaku-guntō[6] and 尖閣列島 Senkaku-rettō[7])  in the East China Sea. –Din Merican

“It’s going to be the most powerful country in this world, more powerful than the United States,” Dr Mahathir said of China.

He led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, during which he made regular trips to China – in part to limit reliance on Western nations – and trade ties accelerated. Under his leadership Malaysia advocated a pragmatic relationship with China and promoted what he called “Asian values”.

MH370 tension

China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner and was its fourth-biggest foreign investor in 2015. A Chinese company is paying RM9.83 billion for the energy assets of a troubled Malaysian state investment company, while others are bidding for rail projects in the Southeast Asian nation.

Ties between China and Malaysia were briefly strained after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March 2014 with more than 150 Chinese nationals on board.

The two countries along with Australia are still searching for the plane. Prime Minister Li Keqiang said in November that China wanted to enhance maritime and defence cooperation with Malaysia.

China in February sparked new questions about its intentions in the South China Sea after it deployed surface-to-air missiles to a contested island, a move that came just months after President Xi Jinping promised not to militarise the disputed atolls.

Under Xi, China has reclaimed land to bolster its claims to more than 80% of the waterway that hosts US$5 trillion of international shipping a year, adding airstrips and lighthouses.

At least four ASEAN members also claim portions of the South China Sea. China has reclaimed 1,200ha of land over two years, warned US military planes and ships from going near areas it controls and its vessels have regularly clashed with Vietnamese and Philippine fishing boats.

While the Philippines and Vietnam have protested, other Asean states have been more willing to accommodate China and its economic muscle.

In November, ASEAN Defence Ministers failed to release a communique from their meeting amid reports of Chinese opposition to language on the disputes. There was a similar failure at a leaders’ summit in Cambodia in 2012.

Malaysia has avoided overtly challenging China over its maritime claims. Chinese coast guard ships were spotted off the coast of Sarawak last month, sparking worries among people there, official news agency Bernama reported.

Defence Minister Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein was quick to dispel any concerns, saying the situation was under control and that he’d arrange a meeting between the Chinese Ambassador and the Sarawak chief minister to resolve any misunderstanding, the report said. – Bloomberg, March 3, 2016.

9 thoughts on “ASEAN powerless to stop China’s incursions, says Dr Mahathir

  1. ASEAN powerless to stop China’s incursions, says Dr Mahathir.

    Same may also be true for US and Russia to whom action against countries anywhere in the world may be justified to be of ‘national security’.

  2. Admit it, we can do little to counter the Chinese threats. Jibby’s cousin is bluffing, not only himself but the whole nation, by saying nothing to worry about the Chinese warships sightings. They not only have the might and the muscle to “bully” us but the technology too.

    While we, as usual, seek divine intervention to salvage us in times of crisis, the Chinese are miles ahead of us in military software and hardware.

    I used to say this in my military classes in days of yore, ” Guys, if here’s a nuclear war just bend over and kiss your ass goodbye”.

  3. Please tell them to stop playing with superpowers. The latter have their own agenda and do not care who they kill on the way. Small countries should just focus on Zone of Freedom and Neutrality and keep an eye on the economic and commercial relations. Also known as ZOFAN.

  4. We should not let oppressor defines our identity.
    We should just stand up and be honest to ourselves.
    Najib is a crook, and XiJinPing is a bully with his assertion.
    I said that because I care for people in Malaysia, and people in China.

  5. What can be done by US- CHINA-RUSSIA on the world level may also be done within country-state-town-company-religion-ngo-other levels.
    MIGHT IS RIGHT and that MANY ARE GREEDY FOR POWER resulting in no value of

  6. I learnt about a website called 15yan. com
    It clearly illustrates the diversity of thoughts of a very different youthful China.
    China is not as one dimension as it wanted to portray itself politically. I just hope the world could provide room for 20% of the world a chance…

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