13 May 2004

Malaysia says US intervention in Malacca Straits
could create problems

KUALA LUMPUR: Inviting the United States to patrol the Malacca Straits could see a transfer of the superpower's own problems to the region, Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar said in remarks published here.
Malaysia has repeatedly rejected the idea of US anti-terrorism patrols in the straits and has criticised neighbouring Singapore for apparently suggesting that it was incapable of protecting the crucial waterway.
"In the case of the Straits of Malacca, the littoral states are Malaysia and Indonesia. But we can work with other countries, including Singapore which has the Straits of Singapore which joins (the Malacca Straits)," Syed Hamid said.
"But if we invite (the US), we are adding a new dimension as the country invited has its own 'anti'-forces," he was quoted as telling the New Straits Times in an interview.
"We are then going to introduce new things in the area which did not exist."
Malaysia, he said, understood that many countries had an economic interest in the straits as it was an international waterway, "but it does not convert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the area."
Malaysia bristled at comments by Singapore's Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean late last month seen as hinting that Malaysia needed US help to safeguard the narrow waterway, which slices peninsular Malaysia and Singapore from the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Teo said that security along the Malacca Straits, which carry a quarter of the world's trade and half its oil on some 50,000 ships a year, was "not adequate" as the vessels were natural targets for Al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists.
"No single state has the resources to deal effectively with this threat," he said.
The top US military commander in the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Thomas Fargo, said earlier that the US was considering the possibility of deploying US forces in the Straits as part of its counterterrorism efforts in Southeast Asia.
The region is home to the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terror network accused of deadly attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombing which killed more than 200 people.
The straits are also vulnerable to pirates, mainly off Indonesia, which consistently has the world's worst record for piracy.

Source: AFP

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"