PM Mahathir to outline Malaysia's foreign policy at United Nations General Assembly

Dr Mahathir's speech would complete the foreign policy framework of the Pakatan Harapan government, said Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah. PHOTO: AFP

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will outline Malaysia's foreign policy at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York next month.

Foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Tun Mahathir's speech would complete the foreign policy framework of the Pakatan Harapan government.

"It will be a speech that will set the tone, which Wisma Putra will align itself to. Of course, it does not mean we are not doing anything in the meantime.

"It will be the foreign policy speech of the new government, so bear with us," Datuk Saifuddin said in an interview.

He was asked about major changes in Malaysia's foreign policy following Pakatan's general election win on May 9.

The 73rd session of UNGA opens on Sept 18. The first day of the high-level General Debate will be on Sept 25 and is scheduled to last for nine working days.

Mr Saifuddin said that among the things which can be expected on Malaysia's foreign policy front are a comeback of the Langkawi International Dialogue (LID), a re-emphasis on engaging with African countries, and an effort to speak up more about the interests of developing countries such as Malaysia in a globalised world.

Malaysia hosted the first LID in 1995. It was last held in 2011 at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

Among the objectives of the LID is to foster the principles of smart partnership across nations, nationalities, governments, businesses and social sectors.

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Dr Mahathir during his first tenure as prime minister from 1981 to 2003 had also fostered close ties between Malaysia and many African countries.

Mr Saifuddin said no decision has been made on when the next LID will be held.

He said the dialogue could have a new emphasis due to the challenges that developing countries are facing due to globalisation.

He added that some powerful countries look at globalisation as an opportunity to dump some of their goods on others. And the others protect their interests by invoking certain types of protectionism.

"Dr Mahathir is trying to advocate the fact that globalisation should provide for a level playing field on trade, on issues regarding peace and security.

"Malaysia would like to play that role, not necessarily as a representative of any region or bloc, but for our own sake and for the sake of like-minded countries."

Asked about Malaysia's approach to dealing with the South China Sea dispute, Mr Saifuddin said the joint communique at the Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Singapore on Aug 2 stated Asean's concerns over land reclamation activities by some interested parties in the region.

"We specifically mentioned that we want the South China Sea to be free from any form of militarisation," he said.

Malaysia is also playing an active role in the process of drawing up a Code of Conduct (CoC) for regional states to avoid accidents, miscalculations and aggression in the area.

Mr Saifuddin said Dr Mahathir had on several occasions emphasised the need to focus on the real security issues in the area.

He said some people have described this as the "Dr Mahathir doctrine on the South China Sea".

"I'm not sure whether he meant to present a doctrine but it is an important contribution in the way we look at the South China Sea.

"In a very clear manner, he has reminded everyone that it is important to keep the South China Sea safe, but safe from what?

"We don't have a war situation, so why do you need to have big warships, why do you need land reclamation, why the need to put artillery in some of areas?"

Mr Saifuddin said that if the real issue in the waters is piracy and kidnapping, then there is a bigger need to deal with the problem instead.

On Malaysia's decision to withdraw its soldiers from Saudi Arabia, where they have been on standby to evacuate Malaysians in Yemen, Mr Saifuddin said there was a Cabinet decision on the country's involvement with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

"I had a meeting with the Saudi ambassador and I have officially conveyed to him the Government's position and I think he understands where we were coming from."

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