Malaysia, Vietnam concerned about reports of China's military deployment in South China Sea

A satellite image shows what CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says appears to be anti-aircraft guns on the artificial island Hughes Reef in the South China Sea.
A satellite image shows what CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says appears to be anti-aircraft guns on the artificial island Hughes Reef in the South China Sea. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia and Vietnam have voiced concern over reports that China is placing military assets on islands in the South China Sea, the media reported on Saturday (Dec 17).

Malaysia's defence minister said he would write to his counterpart in China to seek clarification, while a Vietnamese spokesman reasserted the country's claim to the Spratly islands.

"Vietnam is very worried about this information," Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement issued late Friday, quoted by The Nation.

In Malaysia, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said there were two matters that he viewed as main concerns in the South China Sea - accidental and unintended incidents in the high seas and the increase in militarisation from any country, The Star reported.

"If the reports are true that China is placing military assets on the islands, it would force Malaysia into a 'pushback' against China," he told reporters on Friday (Dec 16) after witnessing the handing over of duties of the new Armed Forces Chief at Wisma Pertahanan.

He said he would also write to US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter to enquire on the legitimacy of the claims, according to The Star.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that China appeared to have installed weapons on the seven artificial islands it is said to have built in the South China Sea, as was reported by a US think tank that cited new satellite imagery.

Earlier, Hishammuddin witnessed the handing over of duties to new Armed Forces Chief Jeneral Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor from Jeneral Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin.