Hisham: We’ll investigate possible China build-up on Spratly Islands

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is set to investigate the claims that China has placed military assets in the hotly contested Spratly Islands.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said he will be meeting his counterparts from Australia, Vietnam and Philippines to discuss if the claims are true.

"I have heard reports and claims. We need to see if it is true.

"If claims are true, this demands that there is a push back on China," he said during a press conference at the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College on Monday.

He said that the meeting with the Australian Defence Minister next week is to share information and discuss the current situation on the disputed islands.

"We need to ensure that the promise made by the Chinese that they will not place any military assets on Spratly Islands is a promise that we can hold them to," he said.

Hishammuddin said he will also be meeting with the other two countries, who are directly involved in the issue, to gain support on possible steps to take if the claims were true.

"We, Malaysia, realise that we can not work alone in stopping the aggressive actions taken by China in building up military assets in artificial islands in that area, if the claims are true.

"We need the support of other ASEAN countries to do so. It is the ASEAN way to work together but there must be a pushback," he said.

When asked if Malaysia would consider placing military asset in the islands themselves, Hishammuddin said it is not so easy when it comes to dealing with superpowers like China and the United States.

"These are duplicating claims and if we put our military there, it may raise the eyebrows of our neighbours, then Vietnam will do the same, Philippines will do the same and we fight amongst ourselves. So we get trapped into the geopolitics of superpowers and that is something that ASEAN should not allow," he said.

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