Malaysia and Vietnam will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen maritime security cooperation, as the Philippines continues to protest the deployment of Chinese militia vessels in the Spratly Islands.
The director general of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) told Malay Mail on Monday that a draft MoU between Malaysia and Vietnam was in the final stages and would be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General to be reviewed.
“Both parties, namely the MMEA and Vietnam Coast Guard, have agreed to sign the MoU, which involves cooperation in various fields including enforcement and search and rescue operations,” he said.
He added that the agreement would also address the encroachment of Vietnamese fishermen in Malaysian waters.
The MoU is welcomed as a positive step in allowing the Southeast Asian neighbours to offer a unified front to China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Four Southeast Asian nations currently have disputes with China in the South China Sea: Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei, with Indonesia a claimant in all but name as it has a dispute with China close to the Natuna Islands which are close to Beijing’s “nine-dash line”.
Efforts to counter China have been stymied by disputes between the aforementioned countries, but Collin Koh of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University says the pending agreement is a “good move that reflects intramural attempts to address bilateral maritime problems between ASEAN member states.”