Malaysia rejects U.S. patrols for Malacca Strait

Malaysia rejects U.S. patrols for Malacca Strait

Malaysia says it will step up efforts to combat piracy in its waters, but again rejected the idea of United States or other forces taking an active role.

Malaysian Defense Minister Najib Razak, speaking at the end of a regional security conference in Singapore, said his country "should be able to be in a position in which there will be no more incidents of piracy in the Straits of Malacca," the critical shipping route which runs between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

He pledged to enter into "exhaustive discussions between the littoral states as well as with the international community" on the question of potential terrorist attacks in the waterway.

Najib said he will hold talks this month on improving maritime security with Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and anti-terrorism efforts will be expanded as part of shared intelligence sharing.

The minister suggested there could be joint exercises on specific piracy or terrorist operations with "certain countries [that] may be more familiar us, but said U.S. troops won't be allowed permitted to stage "interdiction" operations in the Strait, suggesting the presence of foreign forces would fuel Islamic fanaticism.

Tony Tan, Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Defense and deputy Prime Minister, reiterated his country's call for greater multinational efforts to ensure maritime security.

"A particularly important aspect of such joint action is the sharing of good intelligence. Governments across the globe must continue to exchange critical intelligence concerning terrorist movements, tactics or personnel."

Singapore has been a strong backer of the U.S. in global anti-terror efforts and has long promoted the idea of increased multinational patrols around vital waterways.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that while American forces are intended to play a role in battling terrorism in Southeast Asia, there are no definite plans for U.S. forces to patrol the Malacca Strait. Joint maritime efforts will be chiefly in the intelligence realm, he said.