China not a security threat, says Najib

MALAYSIA does not see China as a security threat and is keen to forge closer defence links with Beijing, according to Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“We are not alarmed. Looking at the nature of China’s military build-up in the short and medium term, it is very much defensive in nature and not moving in the realm of power projection,” he said.

Datuk Najib said Malaysia was keen to step up defence ties with Beijing through high-level visits and purchase of military equipment.

Both countries agreed recently to exchange defence attaches.

“Relations with China are excellent and there is no reason why we cannot co-operate in the military field,” he said.

While there was scope for greater bilateral defence co-operation, he dismissed the possibility that the two countries would take part in joint exercises.

“Malaysia is too far away from the Chinese area of military interest.”

On the Spratlys dispute, he welcomed China’s intention, expressed recently, to resolve claims over the islands through dialogue and joint development.

Malaysia, China, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam claim in whole or part sovereignty of the islands in the South China Sea which are said to hold vast reserves of gas and oil.

Datuk Najib was optimistic that the South China Sea would not turn into a major conflict area despite fears of a Sino-Vietnamese clash over the islands.

He said China would not enter into a military adventure since it was trying to build up good relations with its neighbours and other countries.

Asked if Malaysia would go to war to protect its interest in the Spratlys, Datuk Najib replied: “We will not resort to force unless, of course, our sovereignty is being challenged in military terms.”

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