Your warships can pass, but don’t stay, Malaysia tells China, US

The South China Sea has been the focus of an escalating row between Beijing and Washington. (Reuters pic)

BUTTERWORTH: Malaysia has told Washington to ensure the South China Sea is free of warships, amid escalating military tension between the United States and China in the resource-rich waters.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said Malaysia would remain neutral and non-aligned as both powers engage in a show of strength, a stance he said was relayed to US Secretary of Defence James Mattis in Singapore last month.

He said Malaysia would also guard the oil-rich exclusive economic zones in the east coast states and Borneo.

“I have spoken to Mattis on our stance. We do not want warships to be in the South China Sea.

“We will of course continue to have roundtable talks with all parties concerned on this and the prime minister is expected to go China very soon,” said Mohamad.

He said both American and Chinese warships were free to pass through Malaysian waters but “should not be lingering around” to show their power.

Meanwhile, Mohamad said there were no plans for Malaysian to deploy more military assets to patrol its waters.

“We will spend within our means,” he said.