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International relations

Malaysia promised priority access to China's COVID vaccine

Beijing dials up charm offensive during foreign minister's Southeast Asian tour

China has been trying to win over emerging nations by providing support on the economic and coronavirus fronts.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Malaysia will be one of the priority recipients of China-made coronavirus vaccines currently under development, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday during a visit to Kuala Lumpur.

"China is willing to work with Malaysia to deepen corporation in COVID-19 response and is willing to provide successfully developed COVID-19 vaccines based on Malaysia's need," Wang told Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a virtual meeting, because the Malaysian leader is in home quarantine.

During an in-person press conference following his meeting with Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein in Kuala Lumpur the same day, Wang said Malaysia is "one of China's friendly nations," and that "China stands ready" to finalize the details of the vaccine supply. 

Wang also unveiled plans to purchase large volumes of palm oil, Malaysia's core export, and the two ministers agreed to promote infrastructure development under China's Belt and Road initiative.

As frictions mount with the U.S., China has been looking to win over emerging nations by providing support on the economic and coronavirus fronts. Beijing's aggressive vaccine diplomacy was on full display during the summit. 

Both China and Malaysia "are of the view that the South China Sea should not be a ground for major power wrestling, teeming with warships," Wang told reporters.

He said China and ASEAN countries "should work together to remove external disruptions," in effect pointing to the U.S., because the regional countries "have full capacity and wisdom as well as responsibility to maintain peace and tranquillity in the South China Sea."

In July, Malaysia sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres contending that China's territorial claim in the South China Sea has "no basis under international law."

But despite such a public dispute, Tuesday's joint statement by the foreign ministers said the two sides "underscored the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability, as well as freedom of navigation" in the disputed waters.

The document also touched upon the code of conduct for the South China Sea being negotiated by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Wang and Hishammuddin pledged to work toward an early conclusion.

Malaysia is part of Wang's five-day tour through Southeast Asia, which also send him to Laos and Thailand. Wang signed a bilateral free trade agreement during his earlier stop in Cambodia,

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