Lessons from Paracels XXIII: China envoy should be summoned for Beting Patinggi Ali

Satellite photo clearly demonstrating the PLA-N frigate at Beting Patinggi Ali, which part of Malaysian EEZ

Satellite photo clearly demonstrating the PLA-N frigate at Beting Patinggi Ali, which part of Malaysian EEZ

Wisma Putra would be summoning the Ambasaador from the People’s Republic of China to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang for his alleged statement with regards to the planned ‘Redshirt Rally’ in Petaling Street.

Published: Saturday September 26, 2015 MYT 1:51:00 PM
Updated: Saturday September 26, 2015 MYT 3:03:06 PM

Wisma Putra expected to summon Chinese ambassador

 Dr Huang along with his wife (left) made an impromptu visit to Petaling Street Friday to handover mooncakes to various traders. Accompanying them was Hawkers and Petty Traders Association president Datuk Ang Say Tee.


Dr Huang along with his wife (left) made an impromptu visit to Petaling Street Friday to handover mooncakes to various traders. Accompanying them was Hawkers and Petty Traders Association president Datuk Ang Say Tee.

KUALA LUMPUR: Chinese ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang is expected to be summoned by Wisma Putra following his statements that are seen as interfering in Malaysia’s domestic affairs.

It is understood the summon, set on Monday, will seek explanation from Dr Huang on his statement made during his visit on Friday, Wisma Putra officials said Saturday.

It is understood the Prime Minister’s Office has been informed of the summon.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is currently on a working trip to New York.

Dr Huang has been quoted as saying that China was against those who resort to violence to disrupt public order, an obvious reference to the threat by a group to hold demonstration in Petaling Street.

“The Chinese government opposes terrorism and any form of discrimination against races and any form of extremism,” he told reporters during a visit to Petaling Street on Friday.

Dr Huang also warned that Beijing would not fear voicing out against incidents, which threaten the interests of the country, infringe upon the rights of its citizens in doing business, or disrupt the relationship between Malaysia and China.

Officials when contacted are questioning the ambassador’s remarks when he spoke about terrorism and infringement of China’s national interest at Petaling Street.

“Malaysia views his remarks seriously. It tantamount to interfering in Malaysia’s domestic affairs,” said an official.

*************

HE Dr Huang was way out of line and should be seen as ‘interfering with domestic issues of Malaysia’.

Matters pertaining permits of public assembly and national security are the purview of the Royal Malaysian Police and the Home Minister is the one entitled to issue comments.

Armed Chinese Coast Guard light frigate, photographed at Beting Patinggi Ali

Armed Chinese Coast Guard light frigate, photographed at Beting Patinggi Ali

On the other hand, the Foreign Minister should also question HE Dr Huang as the official representative of China on the People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N) vessels detected at Beting Patting Ali (Luconia Shoals),

The Diplomat story:

Malaysia Responds to China’s South China Sea Intrusion

The country reacts strongly to Beijing’s incursion into its waters.
By Prashanth Parameswaran
June 09, 2015

Last week, The Borneo Post reported that China had once again encroached into Malaysian waters in the South China Sea.

According to the June 2 report, confirmed by Malaysian officials, a Chinese Coast Guard ship had been detected intruding into Malaysian waters at the Luconia Shoals – which Malaysia calls Beting Patinggi Ali. In this case, the vessel was not just passing through, but had been defiantly anchored just 84 nautical miles from the coast of Sarawak, well inside Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone and on the southern end of China’s nine-dash line which covers about ninety percent of the South China Sea.

This is hardly the first time Chinese vessels have encroached on Malaysian waters. Indeed, as I have written before both here and elsewhere, these intrusions have become both bolder and more frequent over the past few years (See: “Playing It Safe: Malaysia’s Approach to the South China Sea and Implications for the United States”). They pose a clear threat not only to the country’s claims in the South China Sea, but its extensive natural resource activities there as well as the territorial integrity of the nation given that the waterway divides Peninsular Malaysia from East Malaysia.

In response, Malaysia, a nation which has traditionally sought to secure its interests in the South China Sea quietly without undermining its overall relationship with Beijing through what I have termed a ‘playing it safe’ approach, has become increasingly alarmed and recalibrated its policy. Over the past few years, Malaysia has been lodging diplomatic protests directly with Beijing while also shaping debate on the South China Sea within ASEAN, increasing its military capabilities and strengthening ties with other countries including the United States (See: “Malaysia’s South China Sea Policy: Playing It Safe”).

Malaysia’s reaction to this incident is indicative of its growing concern. While Malaysia has at times downplayed such South China Sea-related matters in the past and preferred to handle them privately, the country’s response this time was much firmer and more public. Shahidan Kassim, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, told a press conference following the incident that he had held meetings with the country’s foreign ministry, national security council, navy and coast guard on the issue. He also announced that Malaysia had sent its navy and coast guard to monitor the area “to ensure the sovereignty of the country.”

Shahidan also took to his personal Facebook page to provide the Malaysian public with further details about the country’s response as well as pictures of the feature in question. In the post, which was written in Malay, he said Malaysian navy and coast guard vessels had anchored around one nautical mile from the Chinese vessel to monitor its activities. He also clarified that the feature was not a case of overlapping claims but one of a foreign ship intruding into Malaysia’s waters.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Shahidan said that Malaysia would also be taking further diplomatic action, and that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak would himself raise the issue directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He also reiterated the fact that this was not an issue of overlapping claims.

“This is not an area with overlapping claims. In this case, we’re taking diplomatic action,” he said in the interview.

Malaysia – like many other countries – has registered such diplomatic protests before. What is interesting in this case is that the country is making a point to reveal publicly that it is doing so at the highest levels, rather than just carrying this out more quietly as it often does.

The relative hardening of Malaysia’s line in the South China Sea thus far should not be viewed as an abandonment of its ‘playing it safe’ approach.’ Though the response has been firmer and more public, it is still quite measured. Shahidan did not publicly condemn Beijing’s actions to a level that would prompt an escalatory Chinese response, and the Malaysian vessels have also been deployed cautiously. The Najib administration has proven unwilling to let the issue damage the Malaysia’s broader relationship with its largest trading partner, and there is little evidence to suggest this will change anytime soon. Malaysia is also no doubt aware that it is not capable of confronting Beijing directly. Indeed, as I have noted previously, the country has been careful to build in mechanisms to prevent escalation even when it does confront Chinese vessels, down to the number of ships deployed.

Nonetheless, it is notable that Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea has been so alarming that it has even hardened the position of a country that – unlike the Philippines and Vietnam – has been traditionally quieter in how it expresses its reservations.

**********

Luconia Shoals is situated about 55 nautical miles off the coast of Sarawak, which is within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as stipulated in the United Nations Convention Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).

This is not the first time PLA-N vessels have been stationed within Malaysian EEZ. Twenty months ago, it was at Beting Serupai (James Shoal).

PLA-N officers and seamen took an oath to “Defend their territory” when they had the armed troop carrier and two frigates. This, indirectly is PLA-N’s projection of power on areas which are clearly part of Malaysian EEZ.

Otherwise, it is part of the disputed territories which China claimed as theirs as part of the ‘Nine-Dash-Line’.

China's military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

China’s military maneurvres affecting neighbouring nations and region the past 40 years are centred on hydro-carbon deposits

China’s expansion attitude and aggressive tendency within the disputed areas is a growing concern. At least two ASEAN nations have had military stand-off against PLA-N.

Despite being a signatory to UNCLOS (1982) and Document of Conduct with ASEAN nations where the agreement was sealed to address mutual disputes through multilateral discussions, China insists on bilateral talks instead.

Jakarta Globe story:

Commentary: Is Asean Losing Its Way?

The Association of Southeast Asia Nations has prided itself on its “Asean Way” – an informal and non-legalistic way of doing business, especially its culture of consultations and consensus that have resolved disputes peacefully. That way of doing may be fading among signs the group’s unity is seriously eroding. Against the backdrop of the rise of an assertive China, signs of disunity spell trouble for the region.

There are several reasons for this disunity. First, Asean today is a much bigger entity. Membership expanded in the 1990s to include Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, with Timor Leste likely to be the 11th member. Asean’s functions and issues have also expanded. Economic cooperation has expanded from the idea of a free trade agreement to a more comprehensive economic community, which technically enters into force this year. Asean cooperation extends to a range of transnational issues from intelligence-sharing, counterterrorism, and maritime security to environmental degradation, air pollution, pandemics, energy security, food security, migration and people-smuggling, drug-trafficking, human rights and disaster management.

With an expanded membership, agenda and area of concern, it’s only natural that Asean will face more internal disagreements. It’s thus not surprising that one of the most serious breakdowns of consensus have involved its new members. Cambodia, as Asean’s chair, disastrously refused to issue a joint Asean communique in 2012 to please China – its new backer and aid donor – rejecting the position of fellow members, Philippines and Vietnam, on the South China Sea dispute.

Compounding challenges is the uncertain leadership of Indonesia. There are signs that the Jokowi government has downgraded Indonesia’s leadership role in Asean especially as the de facto consensus-builder of Asean on both intra- and extra-Asean conflicts, including the South China Sea. Jokowi’s “less multilateralism, more national interest” foreign policy approach, in sharp contrast to his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s active leadership of Asean, could change. If not, the danger is that if the democratic, economically dynamic and stable Indonesia does not take Asean seriously neither will the world at large.
Without doubt, Asean’s main security challenge is the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. While not a new problem, the disagreement has telescoped due to recent Chinese activities. The most recent example: China’s reclamation activities in the Fiery Reef claimed by Vietnam and Mischief Reef and surrounding areas also claimed by the Philippines. This reflects a shift in China’s approach. While the Chinese military has pressed for land reclamation for some time, the leadership of Hu Jintao had resisted such moves. That restraint ended under the leadership of Xi Jinping, who is more prone to seek the PLA’s counsel in foreign policy issues related to national security and who has advanced China’s assertiveness on economic, diplomatic and military fronts. China is developing the islands further for both area denial and sea-control purposes and as a staging post for blue-water deployments into the Indian Ocean.

These developments challenge Asean’s role and “centrality” in the Asian security architecture. The economic ties of individual Asean members lead them to adopt varying positions. Until now, Asean’s advantage was that there was no alternative convening power in the region. But mere positional “centrality” is meaningless without an active and concerted Asean leadership to tackle problems, especially the South China Sea dispute.

Episodes such as the failure to issue a joint Asean communique in 2012 have led to the perception that Asean unity is fraying and China is a major factor. According to this view, China is out to divide and conquer Asean even as it pays lip-service to Asean centrality. This perception results from China’s seeming willingness to use disagreements within Asean, especially the consensus-breaking stance of Cambodia, insisting that Asean stay out of the South China Sea conflict, as an excuse to resist an early conclusion of the South China Sea Code of Conduct. China also takes the unwillingness of some Asean members to use strong language to criticize China as a sign of disunity. China cites earlier differences within Asean regarding the scope of the code of conduct over the inclusion of the Paracels, as desired by Hanoi. Moreover, China views the code as crisis-prevention tool rather than a dispute-settlement mechanism.

China needs to dispel perceptions that it is playing a divide-and-rule approach to Asean. It should also stop objecting to bringing the South China Sea question onto the agenda of the Asean Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit, on the pretext that not all Asean members are party to the dispute and outside countries such as the United States have no business even discussing the issue. This has the effect of undermining the very idea of Asean centrality or relevance that Beijing purports to uphold. It’s hard to see what the rationale for having these meetings might be without discussion of one of the most serious challenges to regional security and well-being.

As for Asean, it must not remove itself from the South China Sea issue. If anything, it should give even more focused attention to the disputes. One must not forget the lessons of the conflict triggered by the Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia from December 1978 to September 1989. Neither Vietnam nor Cambodia were members of Asean, and only Thailand was regarded as the “frontline state.” Then, Asean decided to involve itself in a conflict between two non-members because it considered the Vietnamese action a breach of regional norms and a threat to regional stability. Today, four of Asean members are parties to the conflict, out of which two are “frontline states”: Philippines and, ironically enough, Vietnam. The South China Sea conflict poses an even more serious threat to regional stability, and it is a legitimate concern of Asean as a group.

Finally, a word about the view put forward by some that Asean is irrelevant and should stay out of the South China conflict. The alternatives are few and bleak. US military action? It may have a deterrent value against the worst-case scenario of a full-blown Chinese invasion of the islands, but is unlikely to prevent the more likely scenario of China’s creeping expansion. Any US-China understanding is useful for crisis management, but Asean would have to worry whether in the long-term it would lead to US concessions to China – such as refraining from militarily and diplomatically challenging China’s position in the islands and surrounding areas. A decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which is considering a motion filed by the Philippines challenging the legality of China’s nine-dash line, may end up in Manila’s favor. This would help Asean, even if China rejects that verdict. But to make the most of such an opportunity, Asean would need to show collective support for such a verdict, and it might help if other claimants, such as Vietnam, also initiate similar legal action. China rejects a more direct role by the East Asia Summit, led by Asean anyway, because of US membership. The international community should render more support and encouragement to Asean to persist with its diplomacy in the conflict. And Indonesia needs to get back in this game.

Amitav Acharya is the Unesco Chair in Transitional Challenges and Governance at the School of International Service, American University, in Washington, DC. He is also past president of the International Studies Association, 2014-15, and author of The End of American World Order (Polity, 2014, Oxford India 2015, Shanghai People’s Press, 2016).

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China expect to muscles her way through these one-one-one talks. Trade, would be an efficient consideration as a tool to achieve its strategic objectives.

Regardless, Malaysia should be firm about its diplomatic and trade relationship with China and slap the wrist when necessary.

Published in: on September 26, 2015 at 19:00  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Malaysian government still sleeping…stupid dear leader

  2. The “Middle Kingdom” mentality of the Chinese is rearing its ugly head again. Thinking they are great, civilized, all others are barbarians. It used to be harmless, contained within China, their Emperors banned the people leaving their shores.

    Invaded, conquered and ruled by the Mongols for 80 years in the 13th Century, by the Manchurians since the 17th Century, internal problems were so huge that they attracted a revolution and the last Manchu Emperor Pu Yi was ousted early in the 20th century. The situation went from bad to worse that it attracted communism under Mao Zedong. Endless suffering until 2-3 decades ago when they emerged as an economic power.

    Bang, the ugly head appears. Claiming practically all of the East China Sea and the South China Sea, to the chagrin of the Japanese and the small nations of South East Asia. Obama at the end of his Presidency wants a legacy of no armed confrontation, did show protests by flying their jets and sending naval boats in the disputed areas.

    The Japanese talked about a drastic change to their war-renouncing constitution but decided only at a “re-interpretation” that allows their Armed Forces to do more than UN peace-keeping roles overseas. No re-arming themselves to the extent of nuclear missiles etc is heard yet, though their “Self-Defence Forces” has long maintained considerable “offensive” capability.

    In the midst of what appears as Chinese “bullying”, one sometimes does not mind the Japanese re-arming.

    • Sophisticated missiles they have, nuclear bombs they don’t …. yet.
      US must have supplied them under their Defence Treaty.

      They are such an advanced industrialized country, they can re-arm by themselves quickly if allowed and if the World War II guilt conscience disappears from their citizenry. Votes are attached to that and the politicians are aware.

      But more bullying by China may whip up Japanese patriotism into a frenzy like during World War II.

  3. Yes, not the first time Chinese vessels have encroached on Malaysian waters. Posing a threat to the extensive natural resources and the territorial integrity of the nation that has an extensive waterway between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.

    Are we doing enough? Lodging diplomatic protests directly with Beijing, raising interest on the South China Sea within ASEAN, increasing our military capabilities to the extent possible and strengthening ties with other countries including the United States. Does China bother? With an Ambassador like Huang instigating “Chineseness” among Malaysian citizens along Petaling Street?

    What else can we do but protest? Of course, call the Huang bloke (sorry, no His Excellency business as far as I am concerned) and whack him as much as possible in the formal diplomatic language so as to be on the official records. But we as private citizens can surely clamour for the Mainland Chinese representative in this country to be censured by Beijing to the extent of being replaced. So that no such things would be repeated in the future. So that their representative shall always bear it in their arrogant minds that what such Huang blokes do are simply not acceptable in a sensitive situation of a multi-racial country like ours.

    Yes, in diplomatic parlance, withdrawing an Ambassador may be too much to ask as the implications are quite serious, usually as a prelude to a break in diplomatic relations which the present situation does not call for. But asking for him be “replaced” my be tolerable. So, let’s shout for that. In so doing hopefully also send a message that we the citizens cannot toleate the bullying in the South China Sea.

    • Blardy … no action by Wisma Putra despite media reports end of last week that they would call the Chinese ambassador to explain –

      Chinese ambassador says in the dark about Wisma Putra summon
      Malay Mail Online – ‎1 hour ago‎.

      • Just out in the news that according to Reuters, China on Monday defended the actions of its ambassador to Malaysia after he was summoned to clarify his remarks criticising extremism and racism ahead of a planned pro-Malay rally in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

        Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it would meet Chinese Ambassador Huang Huikang so that he could clarify comments that “attracted attention and caused concern to the Malaysian public”.

        Since Reuters is an old, well-established news agency, what they report should be true.

  4. Anybody believes the claim that “Chinese envoy’s trip to Petaling Street a goodwill visit” as reported in the media?

    He must be daft choosing to do so by uttering those very unhealthy statements that created ill will instead of goodwill.

  5. I have been rather gratified that the statements that came from the Petaling Street Businessmen Association have been responsible, not highly reactive and incendiary to Jamal Ikan Bakar and group’s words and actions.

    Hope they are not emboldened and thinking otherwise after the stupid Ambassador’s vist and irresponsible statements.

    In every country, there are the career diplomats who have a lifetime occupation in diplomacy and tend to always be “politically correct”. And the “political appointees”. the unwanted or politically untenable political figures that the regime in China may want to get rid of from the local political scene for as long as possible.

    Wonder which one that Huang fler belongs to. Likely to be the latter.

  6. One cannot discount the possibility of China’s undeclared intentions on Malaysia being reflected in the behaviour of the Chinese Ambassador who, but for his diplomatic immunity, would have been liable to charges under the Sedition Act.

    There are such things as quiet subversion, driving a wedge into racial disharmony, fomenting racial conflicts etc in a possible long-term plan of creating a Fifth Column in this country.

    Remember, they are communists and ruled by the Communist Party of China. No doubt, they have abandoned the overthrow of governments by force as a policy, like they encouraged the Malayan Communist Party to do during the period of Emergency in this country. But their secret service (all countries worth any salt have that) may have that as a “silent” programme of action.

    But if their Ambassador is a member of that service or outwardly appears to be so, then he is a persona non grata to this country. Read the James Bond books or watch the movies and you’ll know those.

  7. National sovereignty and territorial integrity. Big words but so damn important for the dignity of our nation and its people, however small in size and in numbers.

    And that dignity must be maintained at all times. Enhanced and brought to the forefront wherever and whenever possible. Like Tun Dr Mahathir did during his time. Agree or not with him vis-a-vis Najib in the current political imbroglio, all citizens must try to protect, preserve and promote our national sovereignty, territorial integrity and dignity. We condemn those who don’t, including those who keep talking of Malaysia First but think of something else. The cakap tak serupa bikin buggers.

    Now the Chinese Ambassador talk as if the Petaling Street people are China’s citizens. Action must be taken against him as action can be taken even if he is an Ambassador. Good that Wisma Putra is reported doing that to-morrow. We’ll watch the results.

    But the encroachment into our EEZ requires a complex set of actions. A number have been suggested in BD’s post and in the comments above. We trust the authorities will continue to act though I wish we have more authority to do so by being a big nation with armed forces matchable with those of China. Whatever it is, act we must. Both those in uniforms, in the Government and we as individual citizens. The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. So, let’s whack them commies (the word still applies to them innit?) as much as possible every time they create a nuisance on or off our shores.

    • *Comment has been deleted.

      This commenter has lost his/her privilege to share thoughts in this blog.

  8. Obama may be on his way out and not keen on a big scale international conflict. Russia – as well as China – are reported to make hay while the sun is away in Syria etc. Weapons into Syria, wielding their influence and keeping it there.

    He China will not do more in the Spratly Islands. Though having completed an air strip, there seems no limit to what they’ll do next – naval dockyard and the stuff. We must also keep making noise on those. The Government must also shout diplomatically or otherwise.

    Diplomatic shouting is thru ASEAN etc. Otherwise is by speaking to the Malaysian public. So that we the citizens know what are happening and what are being done. And can join in the shouting.

  9. […] ships have been mounting military manoeuvres at Beting Patinggi Ali, which is 50 nautical miles off the coast of Miri and is very much in Malaysia’s EEZ area. […]


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