KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 2020: Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has called for calm following a recent incident involving Chinese and Malaysian vessels in the South China Sea.
He reaffirmed Malaysia’s commitment for peace and its view that the maritime area should remain a sea of peace and trade.
“Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, all parties must work together to maintain peace, security and stability in the South China Sea and increase efforts to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence.
“Malaysia remains firm in its commitment to safeguard its interests and rights in the South China Sea,” he said in a statement today.
“Just because we have not made a public statement on this does not mean we have not been working on all the above mentioned. We have an open and continuous communication with all relevant parties, including the People’s Republic of China and the United States,” he said.
Hishammuddin insisted that Malaysia’s position on the matter was clear and consistent.
He said matters related to the South China Sea must be resolved based on the principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.
“While international law guarantees the freedom of navigation, the presence of warships and vessels in the South China Sea has the potential to increase tensions that in turn may result in miscalculations which may affect peace, security and stability in the region,” he added.
Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 was reported on April 18 as “tagging” West Capella, an exploration vessel, operated by Petronas in South China Sea.
The Chinese ship , which was escorted by a coastguard vessel did so at 324 km (200 miles) off the Malaysian coast, which is within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone.
China has made a sweeping claim to most of the South China Sea within a U-shaped ‘nine-dash line’ that is not recognised by most countries.
Two US warships, the USS America and USS Bunker Hill, have sailed near the Haiyang Dizhi 8 during the incident.
China, however, has denied reports of a standoff, claiming that the survey ship was conducting normal activities.
The United States has accused China of taking advantage of the distraction of the Covid-19 pandemic to advance its presence in the South China Sea.