20 April 2016
Contradictory responses from Malaysia towards recent incursions by Chinese ships close to Sarawak waters may point to possible domestic factors shaping its South China Sea policy. They include the lack of coordination and the need to allay public concerns on the incursions.
Last month, Malaysia’s national security minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim revealed that surveillance by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had discovered about 100 Chinese vessels sailing close to Malaysia-claimed Luconia Shoals. This disclosure caused some alarm in the country over China’s assertive actions in the disputed waters. However, Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein later responded that the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) had confirmed that no Chinese vessels encroached into waters near Luconia Shoals. Subsequently, Malaysia summoned the Chinese ambassador to convey Malaysia’s concerns regarding the latest incursions by Chinese ships.
This episode alludes to the fact that Malaysia is not a unitary state actor in its approach to the South China Sea issue. Instead, various actors within Malaysia have conveyed different signals which are contrary to Malaysia’s moderate posture towards the disputes. These developments may be a result of domestic factors, namely the lack of coordination inherent within government structure and the need to allay public concerns on the incursions.
… David Han is a Research Analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 21/04/2016