January 10, 2017 The information office of China’s Ministry of National Defense (MOD) confirmed on Jan. 7 a stopover in Malaysia by a Chinese submarine. It was the first time that a Chinese submarine had visited Malaysia, which, according to analysts, is a sign of alleviated tension in the South China Sea.
The submarine, together with a navy support ship, arrived in Kota Kinabalu on Jan. 3, prepared to stay for four days, a Malaysian naval official told the Wall Street Journal. Kota Kinabalu houses a naval base facing the South China Sea.
The information office of MOD confirmed this announcement, saying that the submarine and support ship arrived at the port for rest and recreation after completing an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia. It was the second confirmed port visit by a Chinese submarine, following a visit to Sri Lanka in 2014.
A specialist told the Global Times on Jan. 7 that the stopover reflects China’s goal of improving its military operations outside the context of war. This puts greater pressure on the performance of China’s submarines.
“China serves as a major force for protecting global marine safety. Therefore, it’s normal for the country’s navy to appear in every corner of the world,” the specialist said.
The Wall Street Journal argued that the stopover is a display of China’s expanding undersea force, and a further sign of power realignment in Southeast Asia. However, the specialist refuted the idea that submarine stopovers are a universal practice of all navies, and stated that the Chinese navy’s global presence will be a new normal in the coming years.
The docking of a Chinese submarine – a sensitive underwater craft – at the port indicates a friendly relation between China and Malaysia. The specialist believes that China’s relations with ASEAN nations, especially Malaysia, have significantly improved, which will benefit regional peace and stability.
Another professional remarked that guesses and comments about the Chinese navy by other countries are reasonable, due to the freedom of speech. However, these public statements won’t impact China’s resolution to protect its overseas interests and safeguard world peace.