South China Sea: does one-on-one mean a one-sided deal for Malaysia?

South China Sea: does one-on-one mean a one-sided deal for Malaysia?

  • The foreign ministers of the two countries agreed last year that they would pursue one-on-one talks to settle their differences over the contested waters
  • But insiders in Kuala Lumpur say the bilateral route sets a dangerous precedent

When Malaysia agreed last year to one-on-one talks with rival claimant China over the South China Sea, it caught observers by surprise.

While Kuala Lumpur was not the most vocal opponent of Beijing’s claims in the area, it had long been reluctant to engage in such negotiations.

Instead it has sought to chart a course between not antagonising China and quietly pursuing its own plan for oil and gas exploration in the contested waters.