Ahead of his maiden trip to China as Malaysia's seventh prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad is reiterating Malaysia's intentions to negotiate the cancellation of two China-backed infrastructure projects signed by the previous Barisan Nasional administration.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Mahathir said he wants to maintain good relations with China and welcomes its investment, so long as the projects benefit Malaysia.
At the same time, the premier also indicated the government's plans to indefinitely suspend construction of the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) project and two pipeline projects under the Finance Ministry unit Suria Strategic Energy Resources Sdn Bhd.
"We don’t think we need those two projects. We don’t think they are viable.
"So if we can, we would like to just drop the projects," he was quoted as saying by the AP.
Mahathir's administration has thus far suspended Chinese-backed projects worth close to RM90 billion.
He has also remained adamant not to continue with these projects unless the prices involved are reduced.
This includes the RM80 billion ECRL to be built by state-owned Chinese Communications Construction Company as well as the two pipeline projects - the Multi-Product Pipeline and the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline - worth RM9.4 billion which were awarded to China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau.
"If scrapping the projects altogether isn’t doable, Malaysia will need to at least put them on hold until the future, where perhaps the need will arise," Mahathir was further quoted as saying.
A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office later clarified the government's plans for the negotiations with China's top leaders.
"We all know they are seeking to review those two projects since the cost is too high," said the spokesperson.
The 688-km ECRL will connect the South China Sea off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia with the strategic shipping routes of the Straits of Malacca in the west.
The other two projects are for petroleum pipelines stretching 600 km along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia and a 662km gas pipeline in Sabah.