US-China row affects regional stability, says Mat Sabu

SINGAPORE: Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu has categorised the security order scenario into three strategic outlooks with one foreseeing issues pertaining to non-traditional security risks and emerging trends impacting the Asian region.

“This outlook will be in the limelight in the future as it poses greater challenges. Maritime violence, terrorism and cybersecurity are main challenges that need to be addressed accordingly,” he said when sharing his perspective on the topic of “Asia’s Evolving Security Order and Its Challenges” at a plenary session of the 18th IISS Shangrila-la Dialogue 2019 here today.

Mohamad, who is here for the three-day event which ends tomorrow, said maritime violence, particularly sea piracy and robbery, requires a more collaborative approach among nations.

Maritime issues, he said, would be potential threats among nations if concerted efforts are not made effectively.

“Obviously, the Southeast Asia waters have faced multi-faceted challenges, ranging from traditional to non-traditional threats within its shores and beyond,” he said.

Mohamad, who is fondly known as Mat Sabu,  noted that rivalry among the big powers aggravates tensions in the South China Sea.

“As a result, there is a greater risk of naval ships and aircraft encounters which pose a possible clash that could spark major conflicts dragging Asean member states into it.

“One such issue is the South China Sea, which concerns the security and sustenance of many neighbouring nations,” he said.

The minister stressed that the South China Sea should remain an area of peace, friendship and trade where Asean and the rest of the world can leverage on, rather than one of confrontation and conflict.

According to Mohamad, the second strategic outlook foresees Southeast Asia and intra-Asian dynamics concerning overlapping border claims, large movements of refugees and the rise of internal conflicts.

“The plight of Rohingya is sheer evidence of an internal conflict that has snowballed into a major humanitarian crisis. Malaysia’s position on the Rohingya issue is well known and consistent. We believe that the situation in Rakhine is no longer a domestic conflict.

“The Asean Charter spoke very strongly about the principle of non-interference, and Malaysia will continue to subscribe to this principle,” he said.

However, Mohamad said beyond the humanitarian dimension, there are also the security and strategic dimensions where the widespread movement of the Rohingyas creates instability in the region, and could easily become a rallying call for violent extremism in the region.

Another strategic outlook meanwhile portrays the challenge to oversee the uncertainty and complex regional order due to geopolitical competition.

“This outlook occurs due to multipolar power structure manifested by the new US administration and China’s robust economic and security policy objectives for this region.

“The uncertain relationship between US and China will remain as an explicit factor in shaping the stability of the Asia-Pacific region particularly that of Southeast Asian countries,” said Mohamad, who shared the stage with his French and British counterparts.