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Malaysian premier calls for dialogue to end dispute over South China Sea

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has called for a dialogue to resolve the longstanding dispute over the South China Sea, observing that the problem is not “insurmountable.”

There is no easy solution to the overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, nor is the problem insurmountable as long as there is dialogue, Ibrahim, who visited Beijing last week, said in an interview published Tuesday by the Chinese English daily China Daily.

Stressing that the South China Sea issues should not be “that contentious,” Ibrahim called for dialogue with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states that also claim a stake in the rich resources of the sea to resolve the differences.

“I believe that there is no easy solution to that problem. As we think of each other as friends, we continue to have dialogue, this problem is not insurmountable,” he added.

He expressed satisfaction that the Chinese leadership had agreed to take the position of engaging in dialogues and promoting proper understanding of the issue.

“I would say the things that we agreed upon is 95 per cent, and the five (per cent) we disagree, it should not cause problem,” he added.

He also highlighted that the Southeast Asian region should continue to be led by the 10-member ASEAN with its policy of neutrality and as a zone of peace while having good relations with all countries.

The mineral-rich warm waters of the South China Sea have long been the subject of contention between China and some regional countries, with the US siding with countries opposing China’s claims.

Washington has frequently sailed its warships and flown its fighter jets over the warm waters of the South China Sea under the so-called “freedom of navigation,” which Beijing has repeatedly denounced as a violation of its territorial integrity.

ASEAN members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam all have coastlines on the South China Sea. Taiwan, which Beijing claims is part of China, is also a claimant.

China and ASEAN signed the “Declaration on the Conduct” – an agreement on the South China Sea – in November 2002, marking Beijing’s first acceptance of a multilateral agreement on the issue.

China’s claims are based on its so-called “nine-dash line,” which are purple dashes on official Chinese maps that represent Beijing’s historical claims to the sea.

However, in 2016, the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that invalidated China’s South China Sea expansion claims.

Anwar told the Malaysian parliament on Tuesday that his country would not depend on the US dollar for foreign investment.

“There is no reason for a country like Malaysia to continue to depend on the US dollar in attracting investments into the country,” he said, according to the local daily The Star.

Negotiations between Malaysia and other countries, he added, should use the currencies of both countries.

The Bank Negara Malaysia has also made a proposal to pioneer the said method in matters of trade during visits to China using Malaysian currency ringgit and Chines official currency renminbi, he went on to say.

“A more important matter is about the Asian Monetary Fund and the initial stage that I had proposed as the finance minister, which was not well received in Asia because at that time the US dollar was very strong,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying by the daily.

“But now, with the economic strength of China, Japan, and so on, I think this proposal should be negotiated at least about the Asian Monetary Fund and can utilize the ringgit and the country’s currency accordingly,” he said in response to a question about whether the government will join the majority of countries that no longer want to use the US dollar in trade transactions.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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