SINGAPORE: Malaysia has called on all parties to “look beyond tired and childish notions of winners and losers” in trying to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia firmly and unequivocally believed that these disputes could only be resolved through diplomacy and via multilateral institutions such as Asean.
“Look beyond tired and childish notions of winners and losers for the simple fact that peace is a universal good and not a zero sum game,” he said in his keynote address at the Fullerton Forum here yesterday.
The Forum, organised by Britain-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, not only serves as an important barometer of regional tension, but also a focal point for the elucidation of national defence policies and the strengthening of defence relationships across the region.
There was a pressing need to make progress on long-standing contentious matters like the South China Sea disputes, said Hishammuddin.
“Whether this progress is for good or ill rests solely on the shoulders of the nations of this region and its external partners,” he said.
Hishammuddin said that of late, there has been a regrettable tendency to pigeonhole foreign relations in the Asia-Pacific as a series of false dichotomies.
“We are apparently being forced to choose between East or West, between China or the United States, between liberalism and populism,” said Hishammuddin.
He added that this also went against Asia’s unique tradition of pluralism, where different cultures, faiths and belief systems were able to co-exist and thrive for centuries.
“Securing peace in our time will require us to regain and enshrine this tradition in everything we do.
“Malaysia, whose DNA bears the best trade moderation and pluralism, will always champion these sentiments in our dealings with the world,” he said.
Hishammuddin said there must be renewed commitment to the various multilateral security processes, regardless of what happened in certain states and added In light of current and potential leadership transitions around the world, it was reasonable to anticipate certain changes to the security outlook and policy of some countries.
“(US) President Donald Trump has a number of times highlighted the possibility of reducing certain US commitments overseas.
“While we hope that he will reconsider, given how crucial Asia-Pacific is to America’s security and economy, it is perhaps timely that Asean takes this challenge in filling the vacuum as a result of certain policy changes involving the superpowers,” he said.
The forum has drawn 75 delegates comprising senior defence officials, high-ranking military officers and non-governmental experts from over 25 countries. — Bernama