Malaysia holds its largest international arms exhibition yet as it looks to update old defence systems

The Philippines and Malaysia have a decades-old territorial dispute over Sabah. 

“What’s happening in eastern Sabah is still a concern. Sulu Sea is still not a completely secure area. There still needs to be a credible defence and security presence over there,” said Mr Thomas Daniel, senior fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia. 

“You’ve obviously got issues and tensions happening in the South China Sea. You’ve got both reported and unreported cases of incursions by foreign navy vessels and foreign coast guard vessels into Malaysia.” 


Malaysia has overlapping claims with Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines in resource-rich South China Sea, which China has claimed is mostly theirs. 

The disputed waterway, where over a quarter of the world’s trade passes through, has become the centre of rising geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Washington. 

“The Pacific is in fact the locus of economic development. It’s the centre of gravity of the security of the world,” Admiral Samuel Paparo, commander of the US Pacific Fleet told CNA. 

Navigating the tricky waters is no mean feat. While the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has restarted consultation with China on a code of conduct to regulate behaviour in the South China Sea, the risks of the regional dispute becoming further entangled in the US-China rivalry are higher than ever.

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