KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian Armed Forces and China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) began their first-ever bilateral military exercise yesterday to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The five-day tabletop exercise at the Armed Forces' Joint Warfare Centre (Pesama) saw 20 officers from Malaysia combining their expertise with PLA's 21-men delegation to develop a common framework for humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
The exercise, opened by Armed Forces chief Jen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, will be the start of many joint drills that is expected to culminate in a field tactical exercise next year.
"We seek to enhance cooperation between the two armed forces, especially in disaster relief operations, and to a certain extent, on counter-hijacking in the open seas," Jen Zulkifeli told reporters.
The PLA team was led by Operations Department deputy director-general, Senior Captain (Navy) Jiang Ke.
"It (joint exercises) will develop into something that is more current. Basically it will be non-war related operations," he said when asked if the joint exercises could evolve into offensive-type operations.
Senior Capt Jiang added that the tabletop exercise was a historic moment for both militaries as it symbolises the expansion of Malaysia and China's defence cooperation.
"China and Malaysia share common strategic interests in this region, and a good foundation to jointly tackle major natural disasters, as well as the obligation to safeguard regional stability and security of international sea lanes."
In September 2005, Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding on bilateral defence cooperation with China - the first of its kind between a South-East Asian country and China.
The memorandum paved the way for the establishment of working groups under the Security Defence and Strategic Consultation in September 2012, reciprocal high-level visits involving PLA's deputy Chief of the General Staff and Malaysia's Defence Minister, and a Defence Working Group Meeting in March 2012.