Malaysia open to talks with Beijing over dispute in South China Sea: PM

Analysts noted that that PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, have been at loggerheads even at the start of the new administration last year. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KUALA LUMPUR, Apr 3, 2023, Reuters. Malaysia is prepared to negotiate with China over a dispute between them in the South China Sea, state news agency Bernama reported on Monday, citing Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Reuters reported.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes annually. Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have some overlapping claims.

The issue was raised at a meeting between Anwar and Chinese President Xi Jinping in China last week as Malaysia has energy exploration projects in the area, Bernama cited Anwar as saying at an address on Monday at the prime minister’s department.

Bernama did not specify which dispute or which area of the South China Sea Anwar was referring to.

“China is also staking claim over the area. I said as a small country that needs oil and gas resources, we have to continue, but if the condition is that there must be negotiations, then we are ready to negotiate,” Anwar said.

China’s has staked its claim to about 90% of the South China Sea via a U-shaped “nine-dash line” on its maps that was declared invalid in 2016 by an international arbitration ruling, which Beijing does not recognise.

Efforts by other Southeast Asian countries to negotiate with China or jointly conduct energy activities have failed to make breakthroughs.

Malaysian state oil company Petronas operates several oil and gas fields in the South China Sea within its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Chinese vessels have in recent years passed by or lingered near Petronas operations, prompting protests from Malaysia.

In 2021, Malaysia summoned the Chinese ambassador to express its protest against the “encroachment” into its waters by Beijing’s vessels. In 2020, another Chinese survey ship held a month-long standoff with an oil exploration vessel contracted by Petronas within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone.

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