PETALING JAYA: A PKR lawmaker has questioned the wisdom of the Malaysian government’s shift in policy in allowing a Chinese submarine to dock and refuel at the Teluk Sepanggar port in Kota Kinabalu last January.
Selayang MP William Leong asked the defence minister in the Dewan Rakyat why the Chinese naval vessel was allowed to dock when the particular port was also near Malaysia’s own submarine base.
“The defence minister said all foreign military vessels including the Chinese submarine are allowed to dock and refuel in Malaysian ports for the purpose of training exercises or stop-over visits.
“He also said, the Chinese naval vessel had obtained permission and diplomatic approval from Wisma Putra,” Leong said referring to the written reply from Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
However, Leong said he was not satisfied with the answer, asking in a statement released today, if it indicated that Malaysia was moving towards not only having closer ties with China in economic and diplomatic matters but also military matters as well.
“This appears to be a significant policy shift by the Malaysian government.
“In light of the current situation in the South China Sea and the rival claims over the Spratly Islands and Pulau Layang-Layang, the Malaysian government ought to maintain its policy of neutrality and review this policy shift,” he said.
The second part to Leong’s question in the House concerned the possibility of China setting up a military base in Malaysia.
“The defence minister replied that the government has not agreed and has never allowed China or any other foreign nation to use Sabah or any part of Malaysia as a military base.”
Leong said the rationale for asking the question was following concerns that arose from China having a 40% stake in the construction of a deep sea port in Kuantan and interests in ports like the Melaka Gateway.
“China may have strong motivations to use its investments in Malaysia for its own strategic interests.
“This is what they have done in Gwadar Port in Pakistan and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa where China is building naval bases there,” he said, adding the country needed to be wary of China’s intentions in Malaysia.
“Although Malaysians welcome China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, the government must be wary of China’s military aspirations and the potential use of the OBOR initiative as leverage to exercise strategic dominance.”