3 April: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he is willing to negotiate with China over their overlapping claims in the South China Sea, where both countries have energy interests.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has expressed his readiness to talk with China to settle their dispute in the South China Sea, where they both claim sovereignty over some areas and have oil and gas exploration projects, according to Bernama, the state news agency.
The South China Sea is a strategic waterway that sees about $3 trillion worth of trade passing through every year. Apart from Malaysia and China, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have competing claims in the sea.
Anwar raised the issue during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China last week, Bernama reported on Monday. He said he told Xi that Malaysia, as a small country, needs to continue its energy activities, but is open to negotiations if that is the condition.
China claims about 90% of the South China Sea based on a U-shaped “nine-dash line” on its maps, which was rejected by an international arbitration ruling in 2016 that Beijing does not accept.
Other Southeast Asian countries have tried to negotiate with China or cooperate on energy activities in the sea, but without much success.
Malaysia’s state oil company Petronas operates several oil and gas fields in the South China Sea within its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
In recent years, Chinese vessels have approached or stayed near Petronas operations, causing protests from Malaysia.
In 2021, Malaysia called in the Chinese ambassador to voice its objection against the “intrusion” of Beijing’s vessels into its waters. In 2020, another Chinese survey ship had a month-long standoff with an oil exploration vessel contracted by Petronas within Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone.