PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia's Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said on Thursday (Jun 28) that the government has yet to make a decision on developing Middle Rocks into a small island.
In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, he also said that no matter the decision made on Middle Rocks, it will not be used for military purposes.
His comments come after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last month that the administration was considering expanding Middle Rocks and developing it "into a small island".
"Maybe we can put a guard there but it won't be for warships or anything," Mohamad Sabu said.
"What is clear is it's our area and we can do what we want but not (for) the military purposes," he added.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded the Middle Rocks to Malaysia in 2008 but ruled that the nearby Pedra Branca island belonged to Singapore.
In February 2017, Malaysia had applied to revise the judgment. The government at the time, helmed by former prime minister Najib Razak, claimed that three newly unearthed documents in the National Archives of the United Kingdom demonstrated that officials at the highest levels “did not consider Singapore had sovereignty over Pedra Branca” during the 1950s to 1960s.
In May 2018, Malaysia's Pakatan Harpan administration decided not to pursue an appeal to the Pedra Branca ruling.
Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore was "happy to agree" with Malaysia's decision to discontinue the case.
MAHATHIR TO VISIT CHINA
Mohamad Sabu also told Channel NewsAsia that Prime Minister Mahathir will be making a trip to China, where the South China Sea will be on the agenda.
The United States military has stepped up activity in the disputed waters in recent weeks.
China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam all have competing claims there.
"We want to have a discussion with all our neighbours and of course the big power, the big economic power or military power. We don't want the area to be a conflict of super powers - either China or America," he said.
"We want neutrality, we want peace. Our prime minister will go to China, I don't know the time yet but he'll go. We're going to talk ... China is not a colonial power. They came to Southeast Asia a very long time ago, they're interested in business. So we can talk to them that they can have business in this area but not the army power," Mohamad Sabu added.
He said that Malaysia wanted the US to know this too.
Dr Mahathir has said he does not want warships in the waters surrounding Malaysia, believing it sends the wrong signals and does not bode well for peace and stability in the region.