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China, M’sia to set up dialogue mechanism for South China Sea

BEIJING: China and Malaysia have agreed to set up a joint dialogue mechanism for the disputed South China Sea, the Chinese government's top diplomat said yesterday after meeting Malaysia's Foreign Minister.

Recent Chinese naval deployments in the strategic waterway, through which more than $3.4 trillion (S$4.7 trillion) worth of goods are transported annually, have reignited tension with Vietnam and the Philippines.

Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims in the South China Sea.

Malaysia had been critical of China's position, but has not been excessively outspoken recently, especially after China pumped in billions of dollars into infrastructure projects under its Belt and Road Initiative.

Malaysia regularly tracked Chinese naval and coastguard vessels entering Malaysia's territorial waters, but China respects Malaysia and had "not done anything that caused us trouble, so far", Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu told Reuters last month.

Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi told a news conference with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah that tensions in the South China Sea had dropped this year.

Littoral states and China were committed to continue appropriately handling the issue and jointly safeguard peace and stability there, said Mr Wang, who is the Chinese government's top diplomat.

"To this end, our two sides have agreed to set up a bilateral consultation mechanism for maritime issues, a new platform for dialogue and cooperation for both sides," he said. - REUTERS

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