Mahathir tells US: No warships in Asean waters but small patrol boats are fine

US Vice-President Mike Pence and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the start of the Asean-US summit in Singapore on Nov 15, 2018.

SINGAPORE (BERNAMA) - Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has told the United States that it does not wish to see warships in Asean waters, but that small patrol boats are fine.

"Well, if the strategy does not include sending the Seventh Fleet into the area, we are welcome to that," he said, when asked on Asean's understanding and hopes on the US Indo-Pacific strategy.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Asean Summit, Tun Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has stated its stand that the seas around the Asean region should be free of big warships.

"Small patrol boats are needed to deal with piracy mainly, but big warships may cause incidents and that will lead to tension," he said.

The Seventh Fleet is part of the US Pacific Fleet.

Asked if South China Sea issues were discussed with US Vice-President Mike Pence, who is in Singapore for the 6th Asean-US Summit, Dr Mahathir said: "We all agreed on ways and means not to increase tension in the South China Sea, that means not bringing in warships, allow freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and also flights over the South China Sea should not be interfered with.

"Apart from that, of course, we understand the need for security, and the need for security will be resolved with simple patrol boats."

Asked about the US-China trade war, the Prime Minister said he did not raise the issue but that summit chairman, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, did.

"I didn't raise it. Somebody raised it. I think it is the chairman who raised the issue with China and the US."

"The US responded quite well to it. Mr Pence sounds quite reasonable, and he says that President (Donald) Trump is concerned about the situation in that area".

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