ASEAN fears South China Sea accidents could spiral out of control

SUBANG, Malaysia - In light of the heightened tensions in the South China Sea, regional countries intend to strengthen co-operation, including establishing hotlines to ensure any incidents are contained.

The defence ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will meet at a resort hotel in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss security issues, including terrorism and freedom of navigation.

"What we are concerned about are unintentional accidents in the sea that, if not managed, would spiral to something bigger," Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's defence minister told a press briefing Monday ahead of the two-day meetings. The talks will involve eight observer nations, including China, Japan and the US

At the meetings, ASEAN is expected to set up direct communication links to better manage regional security issues and sign a joint declaration with the eight partners represented by their defence ministers.

ASEAN, Minister Hishammuddin said, must be united to ensure stability in the region amid geopolitics involving bigger countries. "[It] is the geopolitics of superpowers in the region that, if small countries like Malaysia are not united within the 10 ASEAN countries, we will be at the mercy of the superpowers," he said, referring to China and the US

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