No warships in Asean waters but small boats are fine, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad told the United States today.
"Well, if the strategy does not include sending the Seventh Fleet into the area, we are welcome to that," he said when asked on Asean's understanding and hopes on the United States' Indo-Pacific strategy.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Asean Summit 2018 in Singapore, Mahathir said Malaysia has stated its stand that the seas around the region should be free of big warships.
"Small patrol boats are needed to deal with piracy mainly, but big warships may cause incidents and that will lead to tension," he said.
The Seventh Fleet is a numbered fleet (a military formation) of the United States Navy. It is part of the US Pacific Fleet.
Asked if South China Sea issues were also discussed with United States’ Vice President Mike Pence, who is in Singapore for the 6th Asean-US Summit, Mahathir said: “We all agreed on ways and means not to increase tension in the South China Sea, that means not bringing in warships, allow freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and also flights over the South China Sea should not be interfered with.”
“Apart from that, of course, we understand the need for security, and the need for security will be resolved with simple patrol boats.”
On the issue of the US-China trade war, the prime minister said he did not raise the issue, but the summit chairperson and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did.
“I didn't raise it. Somebody raised it. I think it is the chairperson who raised the issue with China and the US.
"The US responded quite well to it. Pence sounds quite reasonable, and he says that President (Donald) Trump is concerned about the situation in that area.”