PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia needs to pay attention to the increased activities by big powers in the South China Sea, said Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Monday (May 18).
Speaking during his parliamentary address at the Dewan Rakyat, the king said that Malaysia's defence strategy needs to take into account the importance of defence diplomacy, a pragmatic foreign policy, international treaties and its international geopolitical position in the Asia Pacific region.
"The increased activities by big powers in the South China Sea recently needs to be paid attention to," he added.
"Hence, Malaysia needs to be always sensitive to the maritime domain, while crafting a strategy that supports our geopolitical aspirations," he said.
China claims much of the South China Sea, but there are overlapping claims by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Washington and its allies have also challenged Beijing’s territorial claims.
Washington has called on Beijing to stop "bullying tactics" in the South China Sea and accused the latter of pushing its presence in the disputed waters while other claimants are pre-occupied with the coronavirus.
READ: US Navy ship sails through Chinese-claimed waters in South China Sea
Last month, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein called for calm in the South China Sea and reaffirmed Malaysia's commitment to peace in the disputed waters.
This came after reports that a Chinese government survey ship was "tagging" an exploration vessel operated by Petronas in the South China Sea.
In a statement on Apr 23, the minister said: "Due to the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, all parties must work together to maintain peace, security and stability in the South China Sea and increase efforts to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence”.
"Just because we have not made a public statement on this does not mean we have not been working on all the above mentioned, we have open and continuous communication with all relevant parties, including the People’s Republic of China and the United States," he added.
READ: Beijing names islands in disputed South China Sea
Malaysia is not the only country that has expressed concern over the matter. On May 6, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the recent activities in the South China Sea may potentially escalate tensions at a time when global collective effort is vital in fighting COVID-19.
Mdm Marsudi underlined the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight.
She also urged all parties to respect international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.