Southeast Asian Nations Flex Arms On China Over South China Sea Tensions

Southeast Asian Nations Flex Arms On China Over South China Sea Tensions
Vietnam Spratly islands 9 Do Kien Trung / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
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Countries in Southeast Asia are purchasing and overhauling warships and other military armaments amidst China’s provocative behavior in the disputed South China Sea. The previously low-key Malaysia has now expressed its objection against the Chinese activities in the region. Indonesia has started constructing two warships for the Philippine Navy and Taiwan has commissioned its biggest ship to patrol the contested waters.


Tensions over South China Sea have reached a point where industry experts are now eyeing Southeast Asia as a booming market for U.S. military hardware.

Malaysia shifts low-key attitude towards China

Malaysia used to be the only country involved in the South China Sea dispute to display soft stance against China. The country had rebuked Philippines and Vietnam for being too confrontational towards China in the past. But this is about to change.

Malaysia will now confront China about a Chinese coast-guard ship anchored in its exclusive economic zone around the Luconia Shoals, The Wall Street Journal has learned. This is the first time that the country will do such move despite Chinese ships frequenting its territory for the last two years.

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Malaysia’s hardened stance against China may have started when it allowed the U.S. to fly its P-8 surveillance planes from Borneo airbases, WSJ said. Morning News USA has previously reported that Malaysia’s prime minister has described the South China Sea dispute as “the deadliest conflicts” that world could know.

Indonesia begins building PH warship

Indonesia has commenced building two strategic sealift vessels for the Philippine Navy, reported. The first vessel is scheduled to be delivered on May 2016 and the second vessel is expected to arrive in 2017. The ships cost the Philippine government 3.87 billion pesos or 60 million US dollars.

“What we are doing now has reached 25%, and for the import of equipment that we need the existing 80%. Hopefully the process will be timely and on November 2015 we will launch,” Firmansyah Arifin, director of PT PAL Indonesia was quoted as saying.

Taiwan commissioned biggest ships to patrol islands

Taiwan’s coast guard commissioned its biggest ships in its effort to strengthen its defense in the wake of China’s provocative behavior in South China Sea, Reuters reported. The ships are expected to dock on Taiping Island before the end of 2015.

“Taiping Island’s defense capabilities will not be weak. As far as Taiping Island is concerned, we still maintain not so much a military as a civil role,” said Wang Chung-yi, minister of the Coast Guard Administration.

Wang said Taiwan is not interested in creating conflict over the disputed islands but the country “will not concede” if provoked.

Southeast Asian countries will allot $40 billion in military spending

Countries in the Southeast Asia are going to spend approximately $40 billion on defense within 2015, according to Anthony Nelson of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

“We’re expecting them to go up to around $50 billion or so by 2020,” Nelson told NPR.

Various U.S. defense companies are planning to capitalize on this market, with Vietnam as the “most lucrative” customers, said Nelson. The country has just purchased six submarines from Russia he said and the Obama administration recently provided Vietnam with $18 million to purchase new vessels for its coast guards.

Also read: WWIII: Russia Joins South China Sea Dispute As Ally To China And Brunei

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