SINGAPORE (BERNAMA) - Malaysia on Monday (Jan 23) called on all parties to "look beyond tired and childish notions of winners and losers" in resolving South China Sea territorial disputes.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia firmly and unequivocally believed that these disputes can only be resolved through diplomacy and via multilateral institutions such as the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).
"Look beyond tired and childish notions of winners and losers for the simple fact that peace is a universal good and not a zero-sum game," he said in his keynote address at the 2017 Fullerton Forum here.
Mr Hishammuddin said there was a pressing need to finally make progress on longstanding contentious matters like the South China Sea.
"Whether this progress is for good or ill rests solely on the shoulders of the nations of this region and its external partners," he added.
Mr Hishammuddin said that of late there has been a regrettable tendency to pigeonhole foreign relations in Asia Pacific as a series of false dichotomies.
"We are apparently being forced to choose the East or West, between China or the United States, between liberalism and populism," he said.
However, he noted that this goes against Asia's unique tradition of pluralism where different cultures, faiths and belief systems were able to co-exist and thrive for centuries.
"Securing the peace in our time will require us to regain and enshrine this tradition in everything we do.
"Malaysia, whose DNA bears the best trade moderation and pluralism, will always champion these sentiments in our dealings with the world," he said.
Mr Hishammuddin said there must be a renewed commitment to the various multilateral security processes regardless of what happens in certain states.
In light of current and potential leadership transitions around the world, it is reasonable to anticipate certain changes to the security outlook and policy of some countries, he said.
"(United States) President Donald Trump has a number of times higlighted the possibility of reducing certain US commitments overseas.
"While we hope that he will reconsider, given how crucial the Asia Pacific is to America's security and economy, it is perhaps timely that Asean takes this challenge in filling up the vacuum as a result of certain policy changes that involve the superpowers of the world," he said.
The Fullerton Forum, organised by Britain-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), provides important support to the Shangri-La Dialogue, the 16th edition of which will be convened over three days from June 2.
The IISS Fullerton Forum has drawn 75 delegates from more than 25 countries, comprising senior defence officials, high-ranking military officers and non-governmental experts.