|Littoral States Open To Outside Views On Melaka Straits
From Umi Hani Sharani
VIENTIANE, July 29 (Bernama) -- The three littoral states responsible for security in the Straits of Melaka are open to the views of other interested countries, so long as the issue of sovereignty is clearly understood, Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Friday.
He said a number of states, including those that participated in the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) here, had offered to work with the littoral states of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, yet respecting their maritime responsibility and sovereignty.
"We are quite willing to co-operate, we are quite willing to have confidence building measures and inter-session discussions.
"(But) of course, the primary responsibility based on international law is on the littoral states and they are also responsible to ensure safety of navigation in that area," he told Malaysian newsmen on the sidelines of the 12th ARF here.
Since it was first established in 1996, the ARF has developed into a useful forum for consultation and dialogue with the goal of preventing future conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region.
It consists of the Asean countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), the 11 "Dialogue Partners" (European Union, Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, North Korea, Russia, the United States); Papua New Guinea; Mongolia and, the latest, Timor Leste.
Syed Hamid also said that there were fears that undressed terrorism on the high seas could lead to a new phenomenon, threatening world peace and security even beyond the littoral states.
"We do not want the Straits of Melaka to become a pirate-infested area or a potential area where pirates can operate freely," he said.
Syed Hamid said 25 per cent of the world's trade as well as 50 per cent of the world's oil pass through the Straits of Melaka.
He also referred to Singapore's comment that the low insurance market has placed the Straits of Melaka as a danger zone, thus increasing cost of insurance on ships going through the waterway.
"If this happens, there will be increase in cost of goods and services, because there will be increase in shipping cost," he said.
"We are aware of these things. When we talk about primary responsibility, it does not mean we will exclude people who are willing to help us," Syed Hamid said.
"But we are just seeking an understanding on the question of primary responsibility. Those who are interested to assist us are most welcome," he added.
He said the ARF meeting, attended by the foreign ministers, also quoted Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's statement of using air intelligence to monitor the straits security.
"Just now they quoted Najib, saying that we can also have `eye from the sky', using air intelligence to monitor initial danger to ships using the straits," he said.
"There are many ways where we can add value to the safety and security of Malacca Straits.
"I think working together in a co-ordinate way will increase efficiency in patrolling and increase the capability of working as a group with the assistance of other countries," he added.