High-ranking defense officials from Malaysia and Australia are set to meet over the growing tensions in the highly contested territory in the South China Sea.
A report from Reuters shows that Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein is set to hold a meeting with his counterpart in Australia next week. Hishammuddin said the main agenda of their meeting is to verify reports of continued militarization of the Paracel Islands by China.
It can be recalled that in September of last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping bared that China has no intention of building up military outposts and facilities in the disputed territory to which some neighboring nations have separate claims on.
Along with Australia, Hishammuddin said he’s also eyeing to invite fellow claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam to the discussion table to ensure that China is keeping its words that it has no intention of militarizing the area, especially in the Spratlys Island.
Otherwise, Hishammuddin said that the Malaysian Government, together with its allies, might consider a pushback against China. Over the past months, China has been conducting reclamation activities, which draw the ire of the international community as it affects the freedom of navigation.
“We need the support of other ASEAN countries, and I will continue to (seek that support). This is important for us to maintain balance, and to curb the actions by superpowers, whether it is China or the United States,” Hishammuddin was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Meanwhile, apart from the nations with existing claims to parts of the South China Sea, some reports indicate that India and the U.S. are in talks of possible joint patrol, which could extend to the disputed sea, the Hindustan Times reports. But the two countries, which are known to have a powerhouse military capacity, were quick to deny the reports.
Although there have been no definite confirmations from any of the two nations, some experts believe that signs are indicative that India, in one of days, might be joining the pack in pressuring China on the maritime dispute.