KUALA LUMPUR: Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu today tabled a white paper to chart Malaysia’s defence plans for the next 10 years, citing increasing terrorism threats, the military tension in the South China Sea, cybersecurity attacks, and a rise in human and drug trafficking.
He said while the tension between the US and China continues, Southeast Asian countries also have an impact on Malaysia.
“Apart from territorial disputes, Malaysia’s interests in the region are also influenced by several other bilateral issues which could see overlapping demands, the spillover effect of neighbouring internal conflicts, and the refugee crisis triggered by countries’ domestic issues,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat.
He said Malaysia also faces non-traditional threats across its borders including the threat of terrorism and extremism which he said is on the rise.
He said the magnitude and shape of the threats are in line with current developments in neighbouring countries, speaking of fighters returning to Southeast Asia and forging links with local terrorists.
He also spoke of efforts to spread Islamic State narratives which could influence lone wolf attacks.
Mohamad, popularly known as Mat Sabu, also referred to cyberspace as “the new domain of national security and geopolitics”.
He said space has the potential to disrupt national security without the need for perpetrators to resort to physical actions.
“Advances in technology such as the internet of things, cloud computing, big data, deep learning, 5G technology and artificial intelligence have exposed military operations to cyber threats,” he added.
He also referred to security threats in Malaysia’s maritime zone, saying non-traditional threats related to abductions, illegal fishing activities, drug smuggling, human trafficking, while decreasing, still pose a real challenge to authorities.
Mohamad also spoke on climate change which may see Malaysia being affected by natural disasters, threatening its safety, health and development.
To protect the nation’s borders, he said, integrated layer areas will be observed at all times. The first includes the terrain on the mainland as well as in Sabah and Sarawak, the waterfront and the airspace.
More advanced areas include sovereign rights such as the maritime zone, strategic waterways, airspace and critical communications links and locations that extend beyond these areas as part of national interests.
He said an important part of the armed forces’ future development is long-term investment in improving assets and equipment, to have a knowledge-based workforce and relevant skills among armed forces personnel.
These include developing cyber electromagnetic activity capabilities, and improving intelligence and monitoring.
Mohamad said the government also wants to develop better operations, have better satellite communications to enhance command and control capabilities, and increase maritime combat capabilities.
As for land, he said the white paper seeks to improve mobility, communications and logistics capabilities.
He said the government will continue to look after the welfare of military veterans as a token of appreciation for their sacrifices.
“The government’s main focus is to enhance the socio-economic status of veterans through second career opportunities and other social needs such as healthcare and related assistance including living expenses and schooling.”
Mohamad said the government will continue to give priority to countries in the Asean region by encouraging stability and peace.
The white paper also seeks to introduce a new approach to science and technology by making it a catalyst for the defence ecosystem and national economic growth.