The rise of China in Southeast Asia, at the zero-sum expense of the US, continues.
On the occasion of the 30 Oct 2016 - 5 Nov 2016 visit of Malaysian Prime Minister "Scorpene" Razak to China, Malaysia has agreed to "buy" four Chinese "Littoral Mission Ships (LMS)".
These are 68 meter patrol vessels being bought for perhaps as low as US$7 million each. At such low prices that it is more like a Chinese military aid/donation.
- this is Malaysia's first significant defense deal with China.
- apparently two will be built in China and two built in Malaysia.
- the LMS can operate a helicopter and mount missiles.
- uses include coastal security, patrols and surveillance, disaster relief, search and rescue.
- the LMS will be smaller, less capable and less expensive than the six stealth frigates Malaysia is
buying from DCNS.
- at 4 meters longer than the 64 meter Chinese built Durjoy class the LMS's for Malaysia are likely to
displace about 700 tonnes.
The four 4 "Littoral Mission Ships" (of 68m) China is selling to Malaysia (at donation price) may look like the Chinese built 64m long Durjoy-class used by the Bangladeshi Navy. Perhaps a helicopter can be squeezed on.
In return for this Chinese naval aid/donation Malaysia has pledged to handle South China Sea disputes bilaterally with China. So it can be concluded Malaysia won't utilise ASEAN, the US or use international legal structures (eg Court at the Hague)) to complain about China's claimed ownership of the South China Sea.
Najib's visit follows that of Philippines President Duterte to China. The Trumpesquely undiplomatic Duturte used his Chinese holiday to announce the Philippine's "separation" from the US.
As well as the Philippines and Malaysia, China also has increasingly close relations with some other Southeast Asian nations, including:
- Laos, and
- East Timor.
China has less warm relations with Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia. But the economic benefits China can bring may improve those relationships.