Stir in Malaysia over radar-missile system in Johor

(From left) China State Councillor Wang Yong, Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai looking at a model of the East Coast Rail Line, on Aug 9, 2017.
(From left) China State Councillor Wang Yong, Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai looking at a model of the East Coast Rail Line, on Aug 9, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

An offer by China to supply Malaysia with radar surveillance and missile systems has caused a stir here.

An aide to Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Thursday (Aug 10) that the ministry is "unaware of any offers made by China to Malaysia".

Deputy Defence Minister Johari Baharum told The Straits Times on Thursday evening that there has been no discussion between the two countries on the matter.

The Malaysian Insight (TMI), a Kuala Lumpur-based news website, had reported on Wednesday that China would offer up to 12 units of the AR3 multiple launch rocket system to be based in Johor, which raised questions about Malaysia's intentions, particularly with regard to Singapore.

A Malaysian government source told The Straits Times on Wednesday that the matter was lightly touched on during talks between Prime Minister Najib Razak and visiting Chinese State Councillor Wang Yong, but that there was no mention about the type of defence technology being offered. Johor is one of the possible locations for the radar surveillance system, the source said.

Mr Wang was in Malaysia for the ground-breaking ceremony of the RM55 billion (S$17.5 billion) East Coast Rail Link project in Kuantan.

Referring to the Malaysian Defence Ministry's responses, senior Malaysian government sources noted that China had proposed setting up a regional counter-intelligence centre in Johor equipped with radar surveillance and a missile system when Datuk Seri Najib and Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks in Beijing in May.

 

The proposal was part of a wish list of initiatives, which included ensuring China's lead role in developing two high-speed rail links in Malaysia, that Mr Xi had raised with Mr Najib that has yet to filter down to other levels in the Malaysian government, the sources said.

A separate source said a firm decision would be made only when the two leaders meet later this year, when Mr Xi is expected to make an official visit to Malaysia.

When asked, China's Foreign Ministry in Beijing referred questions to the Defence Ministry, which declined comment, saying weapons exports were not part of its remit, Reuters reported on Thursday.  

Datuk Johari on Thursday also slammed the TMI report, calling it a "mischievous" attempt to strain ties with Singapore.

"Why put it in Johor? To fight with Singapore? No such thing," he said.