Malaysia buys China warships in ‘landmark’ deal

Malaysia buys China warships in ‘landmark’ deal

Wed Nov 2, 2016 10:30AM

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced a deal with China to buy four warships, in a potential shift away from the United States.

Najib, who is on a six-day visit to China, described the deal as “landmark,” because “before this we have not bought such vessels from China,” he wrote in an editorial in the China Daily on Wednesday.

He said that under the terms of the deal, Beijing will build two of the combat vessels in Malaysia and two in China. The ships are known as littoral mission ships, small craft that operate close to the shore.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said the agreement would increase mutual trust between the two counties.

Malaysia had so far been acquiring its major military equipment, particularly for the air force, from the United States.

Observers say the deal, a first of its kind, may be the prelude to a new regional norm.

Earlier, the Philippines had announced its “separation” from the US.

“This is the new regional norm. Now China is implementing the power and the US is in retreat,” said Bridget Welsh, a political analyst.

The agreement also comes at a time of tension between Malaysia and the US.

The US Justice Department in July seized more than one billion dollars in assets it said were purchased by Najib’s relatives and associates using money alleged to have been stolen in a scandal that hit Malaysia last year.

Malaysia and China have a dispute of their own as well. Territory in the South China Sea, which is completely claimed by China, is also claimed by Malaysia, and a number of other countries.

In his Wednesday article, however, Najib said the dispute should be resolved through dialog in accordance with rule of law, in another sign of a lean toward China.

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