Malaysia’s special role in the South China Sea

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Malaysia has a stake in the South China Sea dispute – and not just where territory is concerned. As Asean Chair next year, there are opportunities to take advantage of and complications to avoid.

In May this year, Chinese oil company China National Offshore Oil Corporation placed the HYSY-981 oil drilling platform approximately 130 nautical miles from the Vietnamese shore. This caused simmering anti- Chinese sentiment to boil over into riots; Chinese and other Asian-owned factories were torched in business parks in Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Ha Tinh provinces in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government acted to quell the riots to protect its relationship with China, and it was not surprising that at a public diplomacy forum in Singapore – the Shangri-La Dialogue in early June – the Chinese government drew flak from the US and Japan, and also a guarded censure from the Vietnamese1.


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