On 12 December 2019, Malaysia submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), a partial submission to establish limits of Malaysia’s continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the South China Sea from. This would effectively advance the delimitation of its territorial waters. This was in addition to a joint submission it had made with Vietnam in 2009. The submissions had been objected to by the Philippines and China.
Malaysia has various interests in the South China Sea that puts it in real and potential conflict with other claimants in Southeast Asia and beyond. China has staked extensive claims on the basis of the ‘nine-dash line’, and has taken significant steps to defend its claims. Claims to territory and waters in the South China Sea are driven by the desire to establish sovereignty, and the resultant economic rights including fishing and hydrocarbon resources.
The US has in recent years stepped up its presence and support for the Southeast Asian claimants in the South China Sea, vis-à-vis China. Observers have warned of potential confrontation between the two powers in the waters. While some in the region welcome US engagement on this matter, Malaysia appears to prefer maintaining an equidistance between the two, often suggesting that US-China rivalry in the South China Sea is its paramount concern in the area.
Key issues to be addressed at the event include:
- The Malaysian establishment’s perspectives on the South China Sea situation and Malaysia’s priorities – political, economic, security and geopolitical.
- Its policy goals and responses
- Possible cooperation with claimant states, and non-claimant states from Asia and the West
- Shifts in position, if any, under the Najib, Mahathir 2.0, and Muhyiddin Administrations
- An assessment of Malaysia’s achievements in securing its interests
Our speakers have written extensively on the issue and are well-placed to discuss Malaysia’s position.
About the Panellists
Shahriman Lockman is a Fellow in the Foreign Policy and Security Studies Division of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysia. His research interests include Malaysian foreign and defence policies, Southeast Asian maritime security affairs, and Malaysia-China relations, including in the context of the South China Sea. He also manages the institute’s China Engagement Initiative, which promotes Track 2 dialogue between Malaysia and China. Shahriman was a consultant to the Ministry of Defence on Malaysia’s inaugural Defence White Paper (2019), specifically on budgeting and implementation issues.
Lai Yew Meng is Associate Professor at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). His research interests include East Asian security, Malaysian politics, China-Japan relations, and Chinese and Japanese foreign policy. He is the Dean of the Centre for the Promotion of Knowledge and Languages, UMS. He has written on, Malaysia’s political economy, the impact of the oil crisis on Third World economies, nationalism in contemporary Sino-Japanese relations, maritime-territorial sovereignty issues in Malaysia’s relations with Indonesia, and issues pertaining to Sabah’s security..
B.A. Hamzah is a lecturer on strategic studies and sea power at the National Defence University of Malaysia. He has served in various government capacities and think tanks, was attached to the then Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, and was a visiting scholar of international law at Cambridge University. He has conducted extensive research on the conflicting claims in the South China Sea, energy security and the global significance of strategic waterways including the Straits of Malacca. He is Malaysia’s foremost expert on regional politics, geopolitics, maritime security, international law and law of the sea.
Collin Koh is Research Fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS), which is part of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). His research interest is naval affairs in the Indo-Pacific, with a focus on Southeast Asia. He has published several commentaries in local and international media, policy and academic journal articles, and chapters for edited volumes. His expertise is well sought after by the Singapore Armed Forces for their professional military education and training courses, and by geopolitical risks consultancies.