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Dr M: Asean must maintain neutrality amid rising US-China tensions

Publish date: Fri, 24 May 2024, 05:28 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stressed that Asean should maintain its neutrality amid escalating tensions between China and the United States.

Speaking at the 29th Nikkei Forum Future of Asia: Asian Leadership in an Uncertain World held in Tokyo today, Dr Mahathir said Asean should refrain from taking sides in the conflict.

He emphasised on the significant economic stakes involved, particularly in the Chinese market.

"China is a big market and we cannot lose that market. If we take sides, we are going to lose either the American or Chinese market. That is why for Asean, the conflict between China and the US is their business and not our (Asean) business.

"We do not have conflicts either with China or the US. (And) all problems should be resolved through negotiations, not confrontation," he said.

Dr Mahathir was responding to a question on how Asean countries should deal with the two major powers that are in conflict.

Shin Nakayama, Nikkei Asia editor-in-chief, moderated the forum.

Dr Mahathir added with China's claims of sovereignty over Taiwan, the former had not invaded the latter.

"They (China) claimed (Taiwan is part of them) but they didn't do anything, and the US went to Taiwan and provoked China.

"Now we see an increase in tension between the two countries. And the advice given to Taiwan is for them to arm themselves from possible invasion.

"Of course, there will be sales of arms and increasing tension, which is a waste of time and money," he said.

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