South China Sea
Malaysia Stands Up to Chinese Aggression

Malaysia is getting more proactive about responding to China’s behavior in the South China Sea, reports the Diplomat:

The international community should expand a key naval protocol amid ongoing South China Sea disputes, Malaysia’s new naval chief said in the opening keynote address to a regional security forum December 1.

According to IHS Jane’s, Admiral Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin, the chief of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), called for an expansion of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in his remarks delivered to this year’s Maritime Security and Coastal Surveillance Conference, which some have billed the region’s largest gathering of its kind this year. CUES is a series of protocols negotiated back in 2014 at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium for the safety of vessels meeting at sea.

Since the U.S. conducted its first freedom of navigation exercise in the South China Sea in October, other regional countries have started taking tougher stances against China’s territorial expansion. The Philippines, which has become one of China’s most vociferous critics, literally took China to court, and Japan made a show of encouraging South Korea to stand firmly by Washington’s side. But Malaysia has traditionally been more careful about balancing its relationships with Washington and Beijing. China is Malaysia’s biggest trading partner, and roughly twenty-five percent of Malaysians are ethnically Chinese. It is therefore notable that officials in Kuala Lumpur are standing up to China more firmly.

The aftermath of the U.S. exercises is a welcome reminder that even a little bit of American leadership can go a long way.

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