Malaysia and China sign ‘land­mark’ naval de­fence deal

The Myanmar Times - - World -

MALAYSIA will buy four com­bat ves­sels from China in a “land­mark” de­fence deal, Prime Minister Na­jib Razak said, sig­nalling a po­ten­tial strate­gic shift away from the US.

The agree­ment marked the first time Kuala Lumpur had pur­chased war­ships from Beijing and came only two weeks af­ter Philip­pines’ Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte an­nounced his “sep­a­ra­tion” from Wash­ing­ton dur­ing a visit to China.

Un­der the terms of the deal, two of the ves­sels will be built in Malaysia and two in China, Mr Na­jib said in an op-ed pub­lished in the China Daily news­pa­per yes­ter­day dur­ing his week­long trip to Beijing.

“I call this a land­mark de­ci­sion be­cause be­fore this we have not bought such ves­sels from China,” Mr Na­jib said af­ter talks with Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang.

Malaysia has his­tor­i­cally ac­quired the bulk of its ma­jor de­fence hard­ware from the United States, Rus­sia and Euro­pean coun­tries.

An­a­lysts said the ac­cord was a set­back for Wash­ing­ton’s “pivot” to­ward Asia and un­der­lined China’s in­creas­ing diplo­matic and eco­nomic grav­i­ta­tional pull in the re­gion – de­spite its on­go­ing ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes.

“This is the new re­gional norm. Now China is im­ple­ment­ing the power and the US is in re­treat,” said South­east Asia pol­i­tics an­a­lyst Brid­get Welsh.

Gu Xiaosong, a re­searcher at gov­ern­ment think tank Guangxi Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, was quoted in China’s Global Times as say­ing, “South­east Asia’s diplo­matic sit­u­a­tion has shifted to­wards China fol­low­ing the vis­its of Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte and Viet­nam’s leader this year.”

Mr Na­jib called for Malaysia and China’s dis­agree­ment over rights to the strate­gi­cally vi­tal South China Sea, claimed al­most in its en­tirety by Beijing, to be re­solved “calmly and ra­tio­nally through di­a­logue”.

Malaysia’s re­la­tions with the United States warmed af­ter Mr Na­jib took of­fice in 2009 fol­low­ing decades of pe­ri­odic dis­trust.

But he has in­creas­ingly leaned to­ward China as it be­came Malaysia’s big­gest trad­ing part­ner and af­ter the erup­tion last year of a mas­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal im­pli­cat­ing Mr Na­jib and a state in­vest­ment fund – 1MDB – that he founded.

Bil­lions are al­leged to have been si­phoned from the fund in a stun­ning in­ter­na­tional cam­paign of em­bez­zle­ment and money-laun­der­ing that has sparked investigations in sev­eral coun­tries.

Mr Na­jib’s ties with Wash­ing­ton be­came strained when the US Jus­tice Depart­ment moved in July to seize more than US$1 bil­lion in as­sets it says were pur­chased by Mr Na­jib’s rel­a­tives and as­so­ciates using stolen 1MDB money.

In Beijing this week, Mr Na­jib signed 14 mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing worth 144 bil­lion yuan ($34.4 bil­lion), in­clud­ing an agree­ment for China to build a rail line on Malaysia’s east coast, Malaysian me­dia re­ported.

Photo: AFP

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Na­jib Razak (sec­ond from left) and China’s Premier Li Ke­qiang (sec­ond from right) at the sign­ing cer­e­mony at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Beijing on Novem­ber 1.

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