Speaking Of Asia

Asean, EU and the swing-state perception

Geopolitical circumstances and interests are pushing the two closer together

Last December, the European Union and Asean announced that they had agreed to be strategic partners.PHOTO: REUTERS

Early last week, Malaysia raised eyebrows around the world by announcing that it had scrambled fighter jets to chase off 16 Chinese military aircraft approaching an area off Borneo where it has overlapping territorial claims with China. Later in the week, it produced another surprise when it withdrew its objections to the long-negotiated Comprehensive Air Traffic Agreement (CATA) between Asean and the European Union, thus allowing the world's first bloc-to-bloc aviation deal to proceed.

This was not the first time the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force had executed such manoeuvres, which the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur dismissed as "routine flight training of the Chinese air force (that) do not target any country". The surprise, therefore, was that Putrajaya had gone public with it.

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