Malaysia — In yet another blow to American imperialism in Asia-Pacific, it was reported Friday that the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia is set to purchase security patrol vessels from China in a first of its kind deal.
“Malaysia will sign a contract to purchase Littoral mission ships from China when Prime Minister Najib Razak visits Beijing next week,”Reuters writes. “The purchase of the patrol vessels, if it proceeds, would be Malaysia’s first significant defense deal with China and comes amid rising tensions in the South China Sea as the United States and China compete for influence in the region.”
The only question about whether or not the sale will go through links back to the manner in which the information was revealed.
On Tuesday, just days before Prime Minister Razak departed for a week-long visit to China, Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense posted the following text to Facebook, taken from a speech by Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein:
“On November 5, 2016, the Defense Ministry will sign a contract for the procurement of Littoral Mission Ships (LMS) with SASTIND (the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense), which is an important part of the schedule during the Prime Minister’s official visit to China.”
The post was removed after Reuters contacted a Malaysian Defense Ministry spokesperson, who declined to comment.
A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, however, while stating he was “unclear about the specifics of the situation,” confirmed that China and Malaysia are continuing to “cooperate and communicate regularly across all spheres.”
This, in conjunction with the fact that the Facebook post was on the official government page of Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense — and that the words came from the ministry’s own chief — have few doubting the deal will go through.
If and when it does, it’ll be another black eye in the face of the United States, which is steadily losing influence in the region.Just yesterday, Underground Reporter detailed how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is now allowing China to build artificial islands directly off the Filipino coast in the South China Sea. This is a total reversal in policy, as the Philippines had previously claimed — in a U.N. court, no less — that China had no sovereign right to do as they wished in those waters.
But in the last couple of months, newly-elected President Duterte, much to the dismay of the United States, has gradually warmed to China. This warming culminated last week, when Duterte officially announced the Philippines had shifted toward the Chinese sphere of influence.
Such moves have Washington concerned about an overall regional shift, and for good reason.
Writing for the New York Times on Monday, Jane Perlez wondered if Duterte’s highly lucrative recent visit to China, which netted the country around $24 billion in investment deals, might’ve “started a strategic realignment in Southeast Asia by bringing an important American ally to its side.”
“Countries like Vietnam, which had been edging closer to the United States, and Malaysia and Thailand, which were moving toward Beijing, may now see the value in drawing closer to China, analysts say.”
And now, Malaysia will most likely be purchasing patrol ships from China.
While this one instance is far from definitive proof of a regional shift in attitude, it’s difficult to deny the circumstantial evidence is beginning to pile up. The U.S. is worried, that much is clear. But if the recent actions of several Southeast Asian countries are any indication, those in the region who lose sleep over the concerns of the United States may, indeed, be growing few and far between.
H/t kevin a.
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