KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has voiced its uneasiness about the presence of foreign warships in the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea.
"It could create a misconception that the area is in turmoil," said MMEA director-general Zulkifli Abu Bakar.
Last week, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad raised the matter when he voiced out that Malaysia would rather not have warships in its waters.
These warships could send out the wrong signal, which would be unhealthy for peace and stability in the area, Tun Dr Mahathir said.
However, Malaysia could not itself enforce a warship-free area in the two seas.
As for the battle against piracy and sea robbery, Datuk Seri Zulkifli said MMEA had successfully arrested 11 sea robbers who hijacked MT MGT 01 in September last year.
"And on June 1, MMEA apprehended another 14 who were involved in robbing the master and crew of MT Lee Bo of their personal belongings," he said.
Zulkifli said the safety and security of the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea on the Malaysian side were well under control.
"Therefore, the presence of foreign warships for this purpose is totally unnecessary as Malaysia is fully capable of protecting its waterways," he said.
The South China Sea has been a contentious area, with China claiming nearly all of the waterway. The other claimants are the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
An estimated US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea every year and many non-claimant states want the sea to remain as international waters.
To ensure this, several countries, including the United States, conduct freedom of navigation operations.