Sulu Sea Must Not Become The “New Somalia” – Malaysian Defence Minister

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KUALA LUMPUR – Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has stressed that the Sulu Sea should not become the “new Somalia.”

Hishammuddin Hussein
Hishammuddin Hussein

He said he touched on the need to ramp up efforts to prevent the area from turning into the ‘new Somalia’ at the just concluded 10th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Retreat in Vientianne, Laos.

The Sulu Sea Trilateral Initiative which involves joint patrols by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines was among the issues brought up at the retreat.

The Sulu Sea is noted for piracy and kidnappings and hence the initiative to prevent a similar situation like Somalia where merchant ships fear to use navigation routes off that strife-torn country.

While there, Hishammuddin and his Indonesian and Philippine counterparts also held the 4th Trilateral Ministerial Level Meeting on the initiative.

“The discussions focused heavily on operationalising joint exercises, coordinated maritime patrols and joint air patrols that are soon to be initiated by the three nations,” he said in a statement here Thursday.

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Hishammuddin said he also highlighted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last week, and the finalising of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for “Hot Pursuit” into Philippine waters.

He said that at the ADMM Retreat, he also brought up the Daesh issue, which remains as ASEAN’s main and most current threat, and elaborated on how efforts against the terrorist group in Mosul, Aleppo and Raqa was a mixed blessing.

“On one hand depriving the group of its territory is crucial to damaging its brand but this increases the likelihood that other regions including Southeast Asia may become either a new home for recruits or an alternative target for attacks,” he said.

He added that he also stated that this was not a new phenomenon as Jemaah Islamiyah, Southeast Asia’s offshoot of Al-Qaeda, was formed in the early 2000s with the help of returnees from the Afghanistan conflict.

On the ASEAN-Japan Defence Ministers Informal Meeting, Hishammuddin said he concurred with Japan’s Defence Minister Tomomi Inada on how the world was a very different place now and threats to security had changed dramatically.

On PKO, he had highlighted Japan’s significant contributions to the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre, specifically for the ‘Capacity Building Support for Malaysia’s Role in Multi-Dimensional Peacekeeping Training’.