Mahathir bucks warships stationed in South China Sea
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad cautioned against further militarizing the disputed South China Sea by reiterating his call for warships not to be permanently stationed there, warning it could cause an unhealthy “arms race.”
“We are all for ships, even warships, passing through, but not stationed here,” he said. “It is a warning to everyone. Don’t create tension unnecessarily.”
China claims much of the sea as its own and has built up several man-made islands and equipped them with runways, hangers, radar installations and missile stations to bolster its claim. It has accused the United States, which routinely deploys warships and aircraft to the sea, of meddling in a purely Asian dispute. Chinese ships also patrol the sea.
Days before heading to Beijing for his first visit since his stunning electoral victory three months ago, Mahathir said Malaysia doesn’t need a Chinese-backed $20 billion East Coast Rail Link and two energy pipelines worth $2.3 billion. The projects have been suspended pending renegotiation.
“We don’t think they are viable. So if we can, we would like to just drop the projects,” Mahathir said.
If scrapping the projects altogether isn’t doable, Malaysia will need to put them on hold until the future, “where perhaps the need will arise,” he added. Some of that money has already been paid and could be difficult to recoup. /kga