FEARS tensions in the South China Sea could spill into open war surged after a coalition of Beijing was confronted by a coalition of its neighbours, with the Malaysian Foreign Minister admitting “we are worried”.
The warning was delivered the 52nd Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which finished yesterday. Asean is an economic and security partnership involving ten south-east Asian states, several of which have territorial disputes with China. Beijing claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, which conflict with rival claims from five other Asian powers.
It has been building military bases on islands and artificial reefs in the region, angering neighbours and the US.
Speaking after the Asean summit Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah raised concerns about the actions of Chinese warships in the South China Sea.
He commented: “We should lessen the presence of warships in the disputed waters to ensure peace and stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
“It is a free passage but when there are too many, we are worried,” he told Bernama here today.”
Mr Abdullah went on to claim his concerns had been shared by the other foreign ministers at the Asean meeting.
The US, and other western powers, have been conducting ‘freedom of navigation’ patrols through the South China Sea to symbolically contest Beijing’s claim of ownership.
These involve warships passing through the region and inevitably provoke an angry response from the Chinese Government.
The South China Sea is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
An estimated $5trillion (£3.95trillion) worth of goods pass through it eachttps://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1161540/South-China-Sea-news-World-War-3-Beijing-Malaysia-dispute-Chinese-Xi-Jinpingh year.
Beijing’s claim to the region overlaps with those of Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.
The dispute has produced a number of diplomatic incidents over the past few months.
In June a Philippines fishing vessel sank after being hit by a Chinese ship, outraging the country’s government.