KUCHING - Malaysia will continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the presence of Chinese coastguard vessels near Beting Patinggi Ali off the Sarawak coast.
Defence Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein said the situation was under control as diplomatic efforts were ongoing to resolve the issue.
"The diplomatic channel for handling territorial issues in the South China Sea comes under Wisma Putra. For the Defence Ministry and armed forces, we will wait for instructions but we will also continue our efforts through military diplomacy," he told reporters after visiting the Heroes Grave here yesterday.
He said this when asked to comment on recent reports of Chinese vessels encroaching into the waters around Beting Patinggi Ali, about 84 nautical miles from the coast of Miri.
In November last year, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said Malaysia had been sending diplomatic notes every week about the presence of the ships.
However, Hishammuddin said he had been informed that the ships had lifted anchor and were not in Malaysian waters.
He also said he would arrange a courtesy visit by Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang with Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem as part of the diplomatic efforts.
"I have instructed the navy chief as well as my deputy minister to be present at the meeting, where the Chinese can explain to the state's top leadership their plans and intentions.
"I hope this direct communication between the Chief Minister and the Chinese ambassador will give confidence to the people of Sarawak that we have things under control," he said.
Hishammuddin also said territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be dealt with through diplomacy in order to maintain stability in the region.
"The geopolitical issues in the South China Sea are complex, involving various state actors and superpowers like China and the United States.
"It's not easy dealing with superpowers, but let us use the channels that we have so that there are no unintended accidents and incidents which may spiral out of control, which everybody will regret later on," he added.