KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - South-east Asian countries should guard against the involvement of big powers in the region, as such meddling may fuel conflict and lead to an arms race, according to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Drawing on the example of conflict in the Middle East, Dr Mahathir said if major powers were allowed to intervene in the region, countries would face pressure to stock up on weapons and fight each other.
That would destabilise the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean), he added.
His remarks appeared in the text of a speech to be delivered on Saturday (Feb 23) on his behalf by Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah at a conference in Kuala Lumpur.
"We are already beginning to see the seeds of confrontation and rivalry in our region," Dr Mahathir said.
"Lines are being drawn. Bases are being built. Armadas are being readied. The pressure is on to take sides."
Malaysia will not take sides in rivalries between major powers, and won't rely on military alliances or strategic partnerships, Dr Mahathir said.
It will continue to abide by the principle of non-alignment, while being friendly and open to all countries, he said.