Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak has called upon the international community to play a larger role in the protection of the Malacca Strait, one of the busiest sea lanes in the world.So much for the old arguments for sovereign waters. And
Speaking to top defence officials at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, he said coordinated patrols by Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have given positive results, but admits there are limitations.
When coordinated patrols along the Malacca Strait started in July 2004, incidents of pirate attacks went down by 25 percent.
The success of the patrols even prompted an invitation to the Royal Thai Navy to join in the patrolling effort.
Their role is to enhance security along the approaches to the Straits.
Mr Najib says safeguarding the Malacca Strait is the primary responsibility of the littoral states but he also recognises the limitations of bearing that responsibility alone, because securing the busy sea lane would require enormous resources to make it unattractive to pirates and terrorists.
He said international stakeholders are important and cooperation could be in the form of enhancing the capabilities of front line agencies.
An idea he proposed was the use of "eyes in the sky".
Mr Najib said, "The assets could be flown by the international community but the consoles could be operated by the littoral states. In operational terms, it's necessary because if you have eyes in the sky if you can pick out small targets, and it could be transmitted through voice and data link and we could have our assets intercept these targets immediately."
Armed escort vessels will be allowed to pass through Malaysia's stretch of the Malacca Strait although their operations must be strictly controlled, Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Razak has said.(source). Needless to say, this is a change in position. See this.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other senior defence officials have been outspoken recently in their opposition to privately armed vessels providing security for commercial ships in the pirate-infested strait.
However Najib, who is also deputy prime minister, told a regional security conference in Singapore that Malaysia would reluctantly allow them to "transit" through its waters.
"These services should be provided outside of our territorial waters, and remain consistent with international law," Najib told the Asia Security conference, attended by more than 20 Asia-Pacific defence ministers.
"(But) given the nature of the straits, it is very likely that these escort services will at some point or another enter territorial waters.
"We are obliged under the straits regime to allow them transit passage, that is passage that should be continuous and expeditious."
Najib said Malaysia was concerned about the possibility of the armed escorts services using large, "offensive" weapons.
"The role of private security companies should be controlled and regulated and they should not impinge on our national sovereignty," he said.
On the other hand, see this. Perhaps there is a sort of consistency here... things seem to be stepping up...