Lessons from Paracel Pt III: Talking softly and carry a big stick

Existing oil and gas fields, multiple claims and China's imaginary 'territory' in South East Asia

Existing oil and gas fields, multiple claims and China’s imaginary ‘territory’ as per the unsubstantiated Nine-Dash-Line in South East Asia

How Malaysia treat its relationship with China is still an enigma. Malaysia values trade and close diplomatic relation with China but extremely worried on the latter’s unsubstantiated claim based on an imaginary Nine-Dash-Line (which include the recent PLA Navy ‘apperance’ at James Shoal (Beting Serupai) which is 60 nautical miles off the coast of Sarawak) in the South China Sea.

The Diplomat article:

‘Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick’: What is Malaysia Playing At?

Malaysia and China have had maritime run-ins with mixed results. What is Malaysia’s endgame in the South China Sea?

February 28, 2014

For the past two years China has dispatched a flotilla of People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships to the farthest reaches of the South China Sea to assert Beijing’s claim to “indisputable sovereignty” over the waters and features lying within its nine-dashed line. Beijing’s ambitious claim covers an estimated eighty percent of the South China Sea.

On each occasion PLAN warships sailed to James Shoal, or Beting Serupai in Malay, eighty kilometers off the coast of East Malaysia. According to Bill Hayton, who is completing a book on the South China Sea, China’s claim is based on a double historical error.

The first error occurred in 1933 when the Republic of China set up an official Inspection Committee for Land and Water Maps to catalogue every part of Chinese territory on land and sea. The Inspection Committee lacked the means to carry out any maritime surveys and so it plagiarized from a contemporary British Admiralty map and attempted to translate the names of maritime features into Chinese.  James Shoal was erroneously translated as Zengmu Tan or sandbank. This error had the effect of transforming a shoal, which lies under the water, into a land feature above the water.

The second error occurred in 1947 when the Republic of China drew up China’s claims to the South China Sea in a map containing eleven dash lines. Zengmu Tan was renamed Zengmu Ansha or reef. Despite the fact that James Shoal lies 22 meters below the sea, the People’s Republic of China advances the fictitious claim that it is a land feature marking the southernmost extent of China’s territory.

On March 26, 2013, a flotilla of four PLAN warships, including its largest and most modern amphibious assault ship, Jinggangshan, a destroyer and two guided missile frigates, conducted an oath taking ceremony at James Shoal. PLAN sailors and marines pledged to “defend the South China Sea, maintain national sovereignty and strive towards the dream of a strong China,” according to Chinese media reports. According to other accounts the Chinese warships fired their guns into the air.

Malaysia-based journalists reported that Malaysian Foreign Ministry officials were unavailable for comment. A government official later announced that there were no reports of any encounter with the PLAN flotilla by Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency or the Royal Malaysian Navy. It later reported that Malaysia had lodged a protest with Chinese authorities.

In April 2013, it was reported that a China maritime surveillance ship returned to James Shoal with the intention of dropping steel sovereignty markets into the shoal. Publicity surrounding this incident was suppressed until it leaked out months later.

Later in the year, on June 3, Prime Minister Najib in a speech in Kuala Lumpur called for claimants in the South China Sea to jointly develop resources to avoid conflict and prevent “extra-regional states” from becoming involved. This was widely viewed as a swipe at the United States.

Even more astonishing were the observations of Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein in an interview in late August. The Minister stated, “Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies.” He also observed that the Chinese “can patrol every day, but if their intention is not to go to war” it is of less concern. “I think we have enough level of trust,” the minister said, “that we will not be moved by day-to-day politics or emotions.”

Malaysia reacted to the return visit by a PLAN flotilla in January 2014 in a similar fashion. According to Chinese media, three PLAN warships, the Jinggangshan amphibious assault ship and two destroyers, patrolled the waters near James Shoal. Sailors and marines again swore to safeguard the sovereignty of Zengmu Ansha.

Malaysian foreign ministry officials were once again unavailable for comment. A day after the PLAN visit to James Shoal, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson asserted China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over James Shoal and denied that China had received an official protest from Malaysia.

On January 29, the chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar, responded to press queries about the presence of Chinese warships at Beting Serupai by denying the exercises took place. The navy chief instead referred to PLAN warships exercising 1,000 nautical miles away.

It was not until February 20 that the chief of the Malaysian armed forces, General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, confirmed press reports. General Zulkifeli confirmed to a press conference at Defense Headquarters that Malaysia had monitored the Chinese flotilla and that it “strayed into Malaysian waters.” General Zulkifeli noted that the PLAN was undertaking innocent passage and that prior notification had been posted on an official Chinese navy website.

General Zulkifeli stated, “That’s a natural thing, As long as it was an innocent passage, that is okay with us.”

Malaysia’s reaction to the two visits to James Shoal by PLAN warships gave rise to speculation that Malaysia was breaking ranks with fellow ASEAN members and was pursuing a low-key approach on territorial disputes with China in order to accrue economic benefits. But a closer examination of Malaysian policy reveals a more complex response.

Malaysia’s policy, to borrow from Theodore Roosevelt, is one of “speak softly and carry a big stick.” For example, on August 30, 2013, immediately after the comments by Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein quoted above, an email was sent out to regional security analysts by a highly placed Malaysian government source. The email read:

I have it on good authority that the defense minister was not properly briefed on the issue and that his words certainly didn’t reflect Malaysian policy. While we recognize the freedom of navigation for all vessels, including military ones, on the high seas, we require that states ask for our permission to conduct military activities in our exclusive economic zone. And that requirement applies to all foreign naval vessels, including Chinese ones. The defense minister’s statement does not change that.

And, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Najib’s speech in June 2013, the Malaysian government source stated, “Nor are we ready to consider joint development activities with the Chinese. That would require recognition of China’s claims in the South China Sea, including our EEZ. And that’s not our policy.”

Malaysia has taken three important steps to strengthen its figurative “big stick.” On October 10, 2013, after the PLAN visit to James Shoal, Malaysia’s Defense Minister announced that a new naval base would be built in Sarawak, one hundred kilometers from James Shoal. Second, he announced that Malaysia would start up a new Marine Corps to provide amphibious capabilities in the South China Sea. The new naval base and marine unit would be tasked with protecting Malaysia’s off-shore oil and gas reserves as well as defending against possible armed incursions from the southern Philippines.

Third, on February 11, 2014 Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Jaafar and his U.S. counterpart, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, the new Chief of Naval Operations, agreed to step up U.S. naval visits to Malaysia. According to Admiral Aziz, “Since 2008 to the end of last year, 132 US naval ships have called at Malaysian ports such as Pulau Indah and Kota Kinabalu.”

Both navy chiefs discussed potential cooperation in submarine operations, maritime security issues, and a report of an alleged shooting incident by the Chinese navy while patrolling the South China Sea recently. Admiral Greenert visited the Malaysian navy’s submarine base in Kota Kinabalu.

Malaysia has also begun to “talk softly” with fellow members of ASEAN. Diplomatic sources report that recently Malaysia has begun to play a more proactive role in advance of China-ASEAN consultations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, which are due to begin in Singapore in March. Malaysia is also hosting a visit by Philippine President Benigno Aquino. The diplomatic rumor mill reports that the United States is quietly encouraging Malaysia and Vietnam to lend support to the Philippines as the March deadline for its submission to the UN Arbitral Tribunal approaches.


Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak would be visiting China in May to commemorate his father’s foot steps 40 years ago, where Malaysia established diplomatic relationship. That was a strategic move, in the times where the region was facing a serious ‘battleground’ between Super Powers and the communism threat was prevalent.

Tun Abdul Razak’s visit and friendly gesture with Chairman Mao Zedong had another purpose. The Malayan Communist Party was taking the post 13 May 1969 tragedy Second Emergency into another gear up where the strategy was to assassinate military, security and political leaders.

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Razak called on Chairman Mao in a historic visit, where Malaysia’s sovereignity and neutrality is preserved. Beijing, May 1974ao Zedong had another purpose. The Malayan Communist Party was taking the post 13 May 1969 tragedy Second Emergency into another gear up where the strategy was to assassinate military, security and political leaders.

China was MCP biggest backer and being friends with the  Malaysian Government meant that the financial and intelligence relationship the “Butchers of Malaya” rebels enjoyed drew into an end.

His Majesty Seri Paduka Yang DiPertuan Agong is expected to make a State Visit to China in November, which is part of the fortification of the diplomatic, trade and cultural relationship formed and grew these past 40 years with China and the past 25 years of capitalistic side of world’s largest communist controlled state.

That is not withstanding the fact that President Barack H. Obama would be making an official visit to Malaysia next month, to replace the cancelled visit last year due to the partisan tussle for Capitol Hill which led to Federal Government budget failed to be approved by US Congress.

Prime Minister Najib and President Barack Obama

When President Obama’s visit last year was made firm, it is believed that China’s Foreign Ministry insisted that China’s President made an official visit to Malaysia at their specified date.

In many instances, diplomats around the region tell the tale about how Chinese Foreign Ministry officials warn ASEAN nations involved in the multiple claims over various over lapping areas in the South China Sea to not raise words like “Multilateral solution” or “Arbitration”.

China is only interested in resolving issues through ‘bi-latteral’ dialogue separate with ASEAN countries. What it  literally means to China is that they telling them off and these ASEAN countries are expected to play along, “In the name of regional co-operation and friendship”

The arrogance is overwhelming when the Philippines President Benigno Acquino III’s planned visit to China lats year was cancelled as the instruction of China’s Foreign Minister because the former was pushing for arbitrary as a solution for the Scarborough Shoal stand off.

ASEAN EEZ Vs China's claims over South China Sea

ASEAN EEZ Vs China’s claims based on the unsubstantiated and imaginary ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ across South China Sea

It is imperative that Malaysia maintain some level of’ insurance’ to ensure the safe passage of the South China Sea continues. It is the second most important merchant waterway and world trade is dependent on the safety of merchant shipping through the passage.

More than RM1 trillion of Malaysia’s trade is dependent on the free and safe South China Sea as a merchant maritime passage. Malaysia’s wealth the form of hydrocarbon deposits and mining activities are located within the EEZ guaranteed by United Nations Convention Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

That is not withstanding the livelihood of so many Malaysia fishing families are dependent from what South China Sea has to offer.

The constantly progressive aggressiveness of Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) Naval Forces (PLAN) in the region is worrying. The developments since the 2008, saw China moving from its Green-water navy capability towards Blue-water navy capability.

In 2008 the BBC reported that a senior Chinese defence official (Major General Qian Lihua) confirmed China was to operate a small fleet of aircraft carriers. However, it was said to be for the purpose of regional defence as opposed to “Global reach”.

The first island chain, which China looks at with great zest and appetite

A report in late 2012 by the United States has outlined China’s recent naval modernisation efforts and intentions of developing blue-water capabilities. The report suggested that while China is developing a blue-water navy, it will be more regional in nature rather than global. Chinese strategists call this “A regional [blue-water] defensive and offensive navy.”

PLA officials have outlined plans to operate in the First and Second island chain.

The might of PLAN is also very worrying to defense analyst in the region. With a personnel strength of 290,000 servicemen and women, including 12,000 marines and 35,000 naval air force personnel, it is the second largest navy in the world, behind only the United States Navy. PLAN assets include 1 aircraft carrier, 3 amphibious transport docks, 56 submarines (of which 14 are nuclear-powered), 22 destroyers, 41 frigates, 10 corvettes, 105 missile boats, 131 gunboats and 67 mine countermeasures vessels.

In comparison, the Royal Malaysian Navy is far too small. Assets of RMN include 2 Perdana Class Scorpene submarines, 2 Lekiu Class frigates, 2 Kasturi Class frigates, 4 Laksmana Class corvettes,  6 Kedah Class off-shore patrol vessels, 4 Perdana Class missile gunboats, 4 Handalan Class missile gunboats and 6 Jerung Class gunboats.

What is more critical for RMN is that out of the original 16 platforms which have missile launching capability, the current status now has been reduced to only four. The latest edition of the frigates is actually 15 years old. The Kasturi Class, for example, is in its 30th year of service. The NGPV program which the six Kedah Class OPV have been delivered has been shelved indefinitely.

In the pipeline is the 6 Gowind Class littoral combat warships, which the Malaysian Government has yet to ink the contract with Boustead Heavy Industry and its partner, DCNS of France. Another strategic weapon system is the ASW/Maritime Patrol Aircraft program, where it is a capability to extend the current submarine force and surface warfare capability, for the purpose of policing the vast body of water between Semenanjung Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah.

The RMAF, which serve as the quick response frontliner, also has not even been equipped with the much assets to ensure its full capability as a modern air force. RMAF is still waiting for the decision to firm the acquisition of much needed AEW/C capability, as well as the critical multirole combat aircraft (MRCA) replacement program for the aging MiG29Ns

Currently, RMAF capability stands at 18 Su30MKM Fulcrum MRCAs, 10 MiG29Ns interceptors, 8 F/A-18D Hornet all weather MRCAs, 13 BAe 100 Hawk light attack aircrafts and 13 F5E interceptor/reconnaissance.

Despite the pressing need to upgrade current military capability for Malaysia’s own sovereignty preservation, the over-politicking of military asset acquisitions since April 2007 has resulted to the Federal Government ultra careful bordering paranoia in making decisions to acquire much needed new ones.

Coupled with rising cost of crude oil production and world economic slowdown due to the 2008 sub-prime financial meltdown which resulted to higher cost of production of goods and lower power of purchase from trading partners especially the United States and EU, the growth and role of China in Malaysian external trade takes primary pole.

Therefore, Malaysia under Prime Minister Najib is bullish and wishful about its diplomatic and international trade relations with China.

That is not withstanding the constant request for new military asset acquisition and development programs put forth. However, Prime Minister Najib’s leadership focusing on the rationalisation of spending and subsidies, Malaysian Government has put all military asset acquisition programs on hold and at the back burner even though some have reached critical requirement status.

The visits and ‘exercise’ conducted by the Jinggangshan and Changbanshian task force groups of PLAN in the region and into Malaysia’s territorial waters as defined by UNCLOS in the past 12 months is China’s act of projection of force and projection of power. It is more prevailing since US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement of “Moving majority of US warships in Asia-Pacific region to South East Asia” at Shangri-La Dialogue almost two years ago.

Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein call on US Navy Asia-Pacific Command Adm Harry Harris Jr at Pearl Harbour in January

China is very selfish in its economic interest in the region especially in the South China Sea, particularly with specific issues like hydrocrabon exploration, fishery and maritime domination. Since 2008, it is clear that China is not shy to demonstrate their will to use deadly force, to zestful mark their territorial claims.

Thus, Malaysia had no choice but to foster closer military co-operation with the United States since China does not seem to be respecting international diplomacy. Despite Malaysia’s close relationship with China, there is no guarantee that China would behave accordingly instead of arm twisting or worse still, imposing itself against the will of others in the region.

Prime Minister Najib and President Xi Jinping on the latter's state visit to Malaysia at Perdana Putra, October 2013

Prime Minister Najib and President Xi Jinping on the latter’s state visit to Malaysia at Perdana Putra, October 2013

It is not right to associate oneself with a big bully who has been trying to dominate the world as the ‘Sheriff’ and imposing their Anglo-Saxon righteousness and value system. Then again, there is an even more nasty bully who is in the neighbourhood and has been ‘terrorising’ every kid, with demonstration of power and prevaling attitude towards use of deadly force to achieve his desired objective.

January 17, 2014

Readout of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s Meeting with Malaysian Minister of Defense Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein

Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog provided the following readout:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Malaysian Minister of Defense Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein today at the Pentagon.

Secretary Hagel underscored the U.S. commitment to deepening ties to Malaysia.  The two leaders discussed a range of international security issues, including Afghanistan, North Korea, and the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in addressing regional security challenges.

Malaysia is an important partner in Southeast Asia that is making valuable contributions to international security both on its own and in partnership with ASEAN.  Secretary Hagel praised Malaysia’s leadership in Southeast Asia.

The secretary and the minister also talked about ways to enhance the defense relationship between the United States and Malaysia, including by enhancing bilateral exercise and training opportunities and exploring expanded defense trade cooperation.

The two leaders looked forward to meeting again at the upcoming U.S.-ASEAN informal meeting in Hawaii in April.


NST story:


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during official visit to Kuala Lumpur

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during official visit to Kuala Lumpur

19 January 2014| last updated at 06:34PM

Malaysia, US to intensify military exercises, training

By Rozanna Latiff | news@nst.com.my
 3  2 Google +0  0 0 comments

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s military exercises and training with the United States will be strengthened in order to bolster defence cooperation between the two countries.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said such two-way cooperation was important to build confidence and to share new experiences and training techniques among military officers from both countries.

He said this during a meeting with US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon, Washington yesterday.
Both leaders also discussed various international defence issues, including developments in Afghanistan and North Korea, as well as Asean’s role in overcoming regional security challenges.
During the meeting, Hagel praised Malaysia’s commitments in Southeast Asia and called on Asean member countries to unite and cooperate with each other to ensure regional stability.
“Malaysia is an important US ally in Southeast Asia, which has contributed a lot to security and defence, whether on its own or by working with other Asean nations,” he said.
The meeting with Hagel was held as part of Hishammuddin’s inaugural visit to the United States after taking over the national defence portfolio.
The two are expected to meet again at the US-Asean informal meeting in Hawaii next April.


Malaysia is in dire need to find the right ‘balance’ to ensure its position as the world’s 17th most important trading nation and diplomatic and cordial relationship with the United States and China is maintained, without sacrificing the integrity of the freedom of wealth within the 200 nautical miles from the coast of EEZ and sovereignty.

*Updated 1000hrs

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 02:30  Comments (29)  

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29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Is Malaysia really trying to find the right ‘balance’? Not with “Menteri Amaran” Hishamuddin saying, ““Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies.” He didn’t have to say those as Defence Minister. It was damn stupid to do so – 1. He antagonized US and 2. he emboldens China to do as it pleases.

    Did he ever learn about diplomacy? Does he even know what diplomacy is? At least he should know about choosing his words.

    And how naive he can be, saying the Chinese “can patrol every day, but if their intention is not to go to war it is of less concern.” Did he ever read the history of China? A huge country, the most populous in the world, pretending only they being in the “Middle Kingdom” were civilized, others around them and even in Europe as “barbarians”, but got bullied left right and centre, regarded as a pariah by the West for so long until only 1-2 decades ago.

    The complex they have developed out of thousands of years of often tumultuous history, never united, now become the second largest economy in the world, Hishamuddin already decides “their intention is not to go to war”, despite the prefix “if”. Does he not know what communists are made of? Does he not even realize the atrocities of the Malayan Communist Party trying to overthrow our government by force for decades in the past? Surely he knows China was once a communist country with all sorts of nasty acts Mao Zedong carried out, including burning of books (the only bloke who did it apart from Emperor Chin Shih Huangdi 2,300 years earlier) and organizing the so-called Cultural Revolution, pretending to exhort freedom of speech, but intended at finding out his enemies and getting the so-called Red Guards to drag them out on the streets, taunting and humiliating them, sending them to labour camps for “re-education” etc, the Red Guards developing factions that fought one another all over the country until a total of some 30 million Chinese died. And all these were only some fifty years ago.

    O, what a farce Hishamuddin saying, “I think we have enough level of trust,” the minister said, “that we will not be moved by day-to-day politics or emotions.” I shudder at the thought of what happens if Hishamuddin is in charge in Ukraine now, the country that has the third largest nuclear arsenal after US and Russia – more than those of China, UK and France combined. But shudder we have to for he is in charge of defence in this country. Woe betide all concerned citizens.

  2. Stupid Malaysia Defence minister comment about James Shoal,wakeup..you are suppose to guard every inch of Malaysia sovereignty from Terumbu layang2 to Beting serupai shoal/James shoal from a word or act…Najib should replace this fella with somebody with strong sense of nationalist.Not from bangsawan fella which didn’t know the hardship of getting even 1inch land.Don’t sit on soft chair when making a statement..if you didn’t know about Malaysia boundary..please shut up.There are many fallen warrior blood in fighting for your nation and you just say nothing happen in the high sea area of Sarawak

    • Hishamuddin is parroting what Najib says at private or confidential Cabinet meetings etc. It’s Najib who should be changed. If he is not PM, he’ll have no power to appoint the cousin Hishamuddin – the one who is not the enemy of my friend, or the friend of my enemy, whatever.

      To them national sovereignty and territorial integrity is very much protected already with 2 tiny submarines and being nice to China and to Chinese in Malaysia – Chinese schools, proponents of “multi-nations within a nation” shit that fake PhD holder Yap Sin Tian talked about.

      There must be something in Najib’s brains or ba..s that made him so kow-towing to China like the Malacca Empire rulers did 500 years ago. The Chinese sent Princess Li Po to Malacca at that time, wonder what Najib got from the Chinese this time. Don’t blame me for mentioning what I read – that he was said to have a Chinese girl friend in TTDI who he married for a period of time and had a child by her – the one he sent to study in China?

      Yet for all the Ah Jib Gor-ing, he got the Chinese tsunami at PRU13, and is still beholden to them. I am flabbergasted, I’d say.

  3. How long would it take for PRC to dump a load of rock on the shoal and put in a small concrete outpost on top – a day/a week at most? Malaysia should be aware of what is going on. PRC is not doing this because of past map errors it refuses to admit, it is for the future and to maintain the claim and its ownership. Malaysia as few options as a small nation but it can and should take the action available – the first step is to resolve all claims with other ASEAN nations, but this must be done through international system, not country to country direct negotiations – establish the precedent and the rule of law. Otherwise a direct negotiation exposes Malaysia to the full power of PRC. Also, ensure that we have some naval presence there every day – doesn’t need to be military and probably best if its not. There are risks – in international arbitration we may lose a few islands or sea area currently claimed as our own, a naval presence may spark a confrontation or abuse of our sailors, but there are greater risks in doing nothing.

  4. Yeah, Malaysia, US should intensify military exercises, training

    That should be the focus. Malaysia cannot hope to scare anybody with it’s military hardware – even if we were to spend 20% of our GNP for defence in the coming 5 years. Let’s accept the fact – we are a small country.

    So, I welcome the report:

    KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s military exercises and training with the United States will be strengthened in order to bolster defence cooperation between the two countries.

    • I’m quite sure they’ll focus on Malaysia’s defensive role prior to the arrival of US forces in the event of a conventional warfare attack.

      And Malaysian Forces leading the US forces to the trouble spots speedily. I imagine Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak will be the landing zones.

      I have considerable faith in our military leaders. Not so sure of our political leaders. There is the pre-World War II British PM Ian Chamberlain appeasement-type in our midst.

  5. Let’s face it – however strong Malaysia tries to be, it will be nothing to the big powers.

    China is not even a super power – their Ambassador to the US said so on CNN a few months ago. They have just started to test one aircraft carrier and their nuclear arsenal delivery system is still not known whether comparable to the US or Russian ICBMs or not.

    But bully they can already be and bully they are already doing – in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea. Japan, Vietnam, Philippines and recently us, Malaysia, have been grinning, scratching our heads, and Anwar is even in Japan now, presumably scratching some backsides.

    So, no need to hoo haa about acquiring military strength – just have enough punch to thwart a blitzkrieg kind of walking into our country by anybody, then rely on the usual International Police to come blow the whistle with a few missiles delivered from their submarines or naval craft prowling in our area.

    Good that Leon Panetta has announced ““Moving majority of US warships in Asia-Pacific region to South East Asia” at Shangri-La Dialogue almost two years ago.

    Me having a defeatist attitude, wanting to hide under an American skirt? No, just being realistic and knowing the size of my balls.

  6. “Big Stick”? what “Big stick”? Look at the state of our armed forces. We know that the military top brass is literally begging year in, year out for a reasonable amount of funds to institutes a steady and systematic modernization of the armed forces, just so that they will be minimally equipped to cope with growing threat and be able to defend this country. Yet the answers has always been “subject to government affordability”, a nice way of saying “proposed whatever you want, but we are not going to give you the money”. Funny thing is they can always afford to spend on something else, usually on something more politically expedient. Bigdog is spot on about the over-politicking and paranoia surrounding defense spending which is not doing anybody any favor.

    The facts is we spend on average about 1.6% of our GDP on defense. Compared that to other regional, middle powers, Singapore – 3.5%, South Korea – 2.7%, Taiwan – 2.4%, Vietnam – 2.2%, Thailand – 1.7% and Australia 1.9%. Heck even tiny Brunei spend 2.9%. While Japan and Indonesia may spend less in term of average % of their GDP (1% and 0.8% respectively), note that their economy is far bigger than ours with Indonesia ramping up defense spending to more than 3% in recent years. Oh and don’t get me started on the Chinese.

    Until and unless our decision maker and their Little Napoleons have grown a dick, or a stick (even a little one) and finally increases defense allocation, unfortunately Mr. Thayer observation about Malaysia carrying a “Big Stick” (and PM Najib recent speech about Malaysia turning into a middle power) will remain as it is – a sad joke.

    • Any idea how we rank in military strength among ASEAN nations? Is there a ranking system accepted by everybody or by most?

      ASEAN is not a military pact but would they jointly defend one another if attacked. Interested to hear you guys’ views.

  7. Big Dog,

    I absolutely agree with you. Its a very tricky bit to play the Dodge Ball, with musical chairs rule.

    If Najib the Felinist trying to be chummy to both the Americans and Chinese, then one day he’d rudely woken up to getting buggered by both sides, one after the other.

    Makes no mistake about the Americans and Chinese; they are both greedy and historically proven that they kill their own for economic territory and power.

    Having inadequate military capability which is fast growing into obsolesce, is just making it hard for Malaysia to stand up and enforce its foreign policy, even amongst very friendly neighbours. It is foolish to not have some degree of distrust against one’s neighbours regardless how friendly and chummy they are.

    Najib the Felinist should be blamed for MAF for not having adequate assets and applications, nor competency. He was the Defence Minister for 3 terms (1990-5 and 1999-2008).

    He is the person in cabinet who understand the most about the ultra important to hv balance of requirement and importance of the military, as a strategic apparatus for socio-economic development, international trade, FDI and an indirect but never the less and extension of Malaysia’s foreign policy and regional diplomatic clout.

    Najib the Felinist did not demonstrate his attitude towards planning and strategic development programs for the MAF ever since he ascended the Perdana Putra throne.

    It’s pointless to exponentially grow the economy, rationalise public spending and deficit, reduce subsidy and push for excellent economic/capital market ratings when Malaysia’s sovereignty and security cannot be guaranteed.

    It’s utter shameful for Najib the Felinist, measured in the context and perspective of geo-politics, for this obtuse and lack lustre of MAF’s development programs, for both axis.

    It’s even more shameful to appoint Hishammuddin to the job and he’s making a pig’s swill out of Malaysia’s defence.

    • Which one the greater evil – Americans or Chinese? Also interested to hear the views of other participants in this blog on this.

      I prefer the Americans. They have no vested interest in protecting and promoting the Chinese in Malaysia to further tip the balance favouring them economically etc.

      And the Americans are the strongest. It’s natural to place bets on the strongest. And I don’t trust the Communists. Although the Chinese may have put aside communist practices and now use free enterprise.

      • Dear Hizan.
        It’s of best interest if we keep neutral when superpowers are flexing their muscle. China ought to be stronger with Russia on their side. If you prefer the American, then you should support Pakatan with Anwar Ibrahim as PM.

        With American as our ally, LGBT will be welcomed. Those Khalwat guys would surely have a hard time sneaking on couples of even the same sexes, fornicating away in public parks.

      • Dear RD,

        Thanks for responding with your views.

        I detest Anwar and Pakatan but I don’t mind the Americans. They would not have been meddling much if our government had taken no-nonsense actions on such things as the funding of pro-Anwar NGOs by the Neo-Cons and Zionists, sought by Anwar. And verbally whacked the former US Ambassador who criticized Malaysia though with out of date information he had when serving in KL.

        But playing one against the other – the old Malay proverb “gajah dan harimau bergaduh pelandok mati di tengah tengah” doesn’t apply any more?

      • RD,

        Pls don’t be daft. Just becoz a state is allied to the US, it doesn’t mean it hv to accept anti-Islamic concept and practices and shed its Islamic principles, values and belief system.

        Saudi and all of the GCC states are strong US allies. One don’t see that happening. In fact, there’s hardly even democracy in these states. True is states like Brunei too.


        The evil that the Americans do is very subtle compared to the Chinese. They manipulate the market, arm twist trade, hold the currency as hostage and their NGOs do intensive campaign in domestic politics in the name of intellectual discourse, upholding democracy or even environment issues.

        The Chinese is very crude. Their ‘Panda Diplomacy’ is actually the ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’, used by the Western colonial powers two hundred years ago.

        True Zheng He came to this region with his huge armada to establish diplomatic and trade channels 650 years ago. But that was then. This is now.

        Zheng He is Southern Chinese. Where most Malaysian Chinese can trace their roots to. The Southern Chinese are the more hospitable amongst the Chinese ethnic groups.

        On the other hand, those who are seated in the Chinese Communist Party politburo and much dreaded Central Military Commission hv always been the more aggresive Nothern Chinese.

        Continuously for thousand of years, these nothern tribes hv been warring and inflicting invasionary hostilities and subjecting north east Asians into the perils of war and living under occupancy.

        That ‘aggresive and invasionary’ attitude is prevalent now and as China is economically stronger today as compared to 10 years ago and can afford to expand its military power exponentially, filling the void of once played by Russia, they want to make their mark.

        There are ways to stop the American type of economic and political aggression and Tun Dr Mahathir has shown us how it could be done.

        The question is now to stop an aggressive and invasionary Chinese who is greedy, has the attitude and all the tools and resources to come and over power and conquer his neighbours? After all, he has been eyeballing all his neighbours, with a lot appetite, zest and glee.

  8. I don’t think there is anything for us to be alarm of.
    James Shoals is 80km away from Malaysian shores. By any civil standard, China will be looked upon with aghast by the international community, if they were to annex it. Malaysia does not make stern protest, even after the 3rd. landing. Even if we did, its only to pacify angry Malaysian. Closing an eye towards the PLA landing is a subtle way to tell the Americans that we are a ‘good-friend’ of China, too. The fact is, China have never exert any untoward determination towards any area, claimed by Malaysia.

    Terumbu Layang-Layang (a part of Spratly Islands) about 300km, north-west of Kota Kinabalu is a different matter, all-together. That is why Dr.M ordered the Navy to set-up base, just 2 month after becoming PM, 1981. (and that was after initiating that ‘London Dawn Raid’ on Guthrie). Today, if not because of Tun Dr.M, we would not have legitimate claims on any part within that cluster of atolls.

    I think our government is more pissed-off with the American for meddling in our political affairs by funding the opposition and it’s apparatus, to bring about an Arab Spring of sort. Everyone knows that Anwar Ibrahim is a very good friend of the American. When Pakatan gets to Putrajaya and being a staunch ally of the US, things might turn ugly on Terumbu Layang-Layang and James Shoal too. China will surely be more aggressive, exerting its claim. (Therefore, Sarawakian should more aware of this probability).

    That’s the underlying cause of tension between Philippine, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea (through North Korea) with China. All these countries are ‘good friends’ of the US. Most of them, with American military base/naval fleet, stationed in their country. Malaysia too will surely need one, if Pakatan get to rule.

    • That is definitely need to alarm of..big bear playing in your green turf and you say nothing to alarm of and ignore it.80km is the distance of Kajang to Kuala Selangor..too near to ignore it.Later when your child (nelayan)playing near your own turf..the foreign vessel will not allow it within 30km radius..how can it be.I think it’s better for new CM of Sarawak voice their concern about this situation.That’s why we have ATM in the first place.

  9. RD, “civil standard” may not be there in situations we are thinking about. Yet we have o think of such situations – Russia has just sent troops into Ukraine Crimea and the Security Council members are still shouting at one another at UN.

    Not sure if China cares if “looked upon with aghast by the international community, if they were to annex it.” They had 50 years of bloody disruptive, even anarchistic life under Mao Zedong and I suspect such elements are still there in the Politbureau and the People’s Liberation Army.

    I don’t know, but better be safe than felinist – that’s the word used here and I like it.

    • Dear Hizan.

      As a small nation and with a weak government, a non-align stance would serve us best. China have more to lose if they act aggressively towards us, in its territorial claim and so far, they have never done so. If they did, we might be forced to scramble under US’ skirt. They would surely not want another military/naval base in their midst. Do they?
      That’s why I say, do not take side. We must make friends with all superpowers, including Russia which is also China’s ally. It benefits our economic prospect too.
      Please don’t let your racial antagonism at home influence your affiliation with Mainland Chinese.
      To me, an affiliation with the US should be treated askance. Their endeavor in the middle-east, Afghanistan and Pakistan, should serve as a yardstick.

      • Not sure if China is Russia’s ally. Putin sent troops into Crimea and China spoke about non-interference in independent nations’ affairs. Yesterday or so.

        China may go for convenience. So many laws have death penalty yet so many break the laws. Like DAP, they don’t care about laws, about Constitution, ungkit the Malay and Bumiputeras Special Position until race riots 1969. Chinese warships menace the south China Sea, they clap and clap. I don’t trust them one bit.

      • “They would surely not want another military/naval base in their midst.” –

        Didn’t you read about the Filipinos rushing the preparation for the re-use of the ex-Vietnam era Clarke Air Base and the Subic Naval Base for the American military hardware? As a result of the Chinese bullying in connection with the Philippine claim to one of the Spratly Island chain(?). And good to know Filipino President Aquino friendly with Malaysia – just returned from an official visit to Malaysia.

        Anyway, with US having so many aircraft carriers and nuclear powered subs, they can almost be a naval base in the ocean as well.

        “Please don’t let your racial antagonism at home influence your affiliation with Mainland Chinese.” –

        Whose affiliation with Mainland Chinese? DAP and the like? If so, I agree. They should respect and abide by the Constitution fully, otherwise ushered to migrate to Mainland China. Won’t be a Fifth Column in the event of a Mainland Chinese attack. Or “deployment” Russian-style in Crimea.

        Such an event not likely? Russian troops in Ukraine now not likely?

      • US role in the middle-east, Afghanistan and Pakistan may appear unacceptable. But why compare Malaysia with middle east, Afghanistan and Pakistan?

        Egypt was ruled by a dictator for 30 years, Libya for 40 years, Syria also about 40 tears under the Assads. Afghanistan and Pakistan breed Talibans and Al Qaeda who whacked the New York Twin Towers, and thank God Malaysia doesn’t have them.

        Because of them, the bloody Zionist Jews and Neo-Cons keep prodding stupid blokes like George W Bush to bomb Iraq saying got WMD which they could not find even in their arseholes.

        So, in Malaysia we try and get rid of Anwar who may have them in his arsehole. And DAP who may keep Communists in theirs. A communist is a communist is a communist. Chin Peng refused to renounce communism and his bloody evil intention even until his ashes changed colour in Thailand. And we try to wallop DAP every time they show unwarranted Mainland China-inclination.

        We do so just by being wishy washy with US and China? No siree. We need to take sides. Decide which is the greater evil. Otherwise the Commies may take our backsides. Anwar’s maybe, not the others’, please.

  10. News headline – Russia: Yanukovich asked Putin to use force to save Ukraine.

    Would China one day say: DAP asked them to come in and save Penang?

    Or the building named Sun Yat Sen that Lim Guan Eng officiated the opening?

    • Remember it was reported that Lim Guan Eng was not happy with the 3rd bridge being named after the present YDP Agong.

    • Don’t be ridiculous.
      Mainland China would not likely ‘save’ a “Sun Yat Sen” Penang which is like Taiwan and a US ally.

      • They say theory differs from practice. The communists used anybody and anything to get what they wanted.

        Agree with Big Dog saying, “China does not seem to be respecting international diplomacy.”

        Taiwan a US ally? Why then “Leon Panetta’s announcement of “Moving majority of US warships in Asia-Pacific region to South East Asia”?

  11. A country’s foreign policy and defence arrangements must always be dictated by its national interest.

    Now, what is this country’s national interest? Surely it is the orderly political, economic and social development of the country based on peace and the solidarity of the people.

    Can these be achieved with being neutral? Or being aligned with Mainland China? Or with US? Let’s discuss these.

    Yes, if we have a strong leadership always. But how long can “always” be? Tun Dr Mahathir lasted 22 years, solved our problems by ourselves e.g problems arising from the Asian.Financial Crisis. After that Tun Dol messed things up. Najib might even have worsened it.Threw away the tools of effective government in a multi-racial country, like ISA etc.

    Keeping quiet with PLA’s show of force in parts of the South China Sea claimed by us only emboldens Mainland China. Just having joint military exercises with the Americans won’t drive the point to the belligerents not to monkey around us.

    Meanwhile the flux situation concerning our race relations becomes fluid. Already people have been talking about the worst race relations scenario in this country ever. The Chinese constitute 25% of the population. They, especially the DAP and the tsunami Chinese, have also been emboldened in their resentment against and questioning the Malay and Bumiputera Special Position and the NEP, the DAP kind hating anything Malay and institutions with Malay dominance – the Civil Service, the Police, the Military. Until they are willing to fully respect and live by the Constitution of the country, we are not likely to have the orderly political, economic and social development based on peace and the solidarity of the people. A lot of money will be spent on vote getting projects and hand outs, not so much for infrastructure and defence.

    So, under the above said circumstances, aligning this country with Mainland China will simply worsen the scenario. Big heads will become bigger, knowing there is the China umbrella, China inspiration and China trade and investment assistance. Sharing and co-operation with others in the field of economic opportunities will be lacking. The economic disparity between the 25% Chinese and the nearly 70% Malays and Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak will simply widen further. The national interest will not be realized.

    So, the alternative in the US or China choice is obvious.

  12. […] selfish, coarse, rude and disrespectful of other people’s rights and decorum. They have also demonstrated steadfastness to ignore, dishonour and disrespect international laws and documents that they […]

  13. […] China’s gross disrespect of nation’s around the region with the imaginary and unsubstantiated claims of the ‘Nine Dash Line’, which is incurring deep into the EEZ of countries as per putlined by the United Nations Convention […]

  14. […] tribunal to resolve issues such as the Scarborough Shoals is the Phillipines’ initiative to “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. It expected to be raised in the informal ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting with the United States in […]

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