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RMSI : The Undying Ghost Of US Regional Hegemony

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    From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling Singapore Review 18 March 2005 RMSI : The Undying Ghost Of US Regional Hegemony If the historic famed pirates of the Malacca Strait
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 18, 2005
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      From: (Mr) Law Sin Ling
      Singapore Review
      18 March 2005

      RMSI : The Undying Ghost Of US Regional Hegemony

      If the historic famed pirates of the Malacca Strait needed a bit of
      rejuvenation to their flagging reputation as a bunch of blood-thirsty
      marine brigand, they had one this week with the high-profile
      abduction of 3 Japanese crewmen from a Japanese-registered tugboat.

      But while "a bit" was all that the action of the unidentified
      pirates would have achieved to restore the nostalgic memory of the
      Strait countries, it had certainly gone a long way to resurrect the
      ghost of the controversial Regional Maritime Security Initiative

      The concept of a RMSI first came into light in April 2004 when Mr
      Matthew Daley, then deputy assistant secretary of state at the US
      State Department, hinted of a permanent US maritime deployment in the
      Strait region by the US under the pretext of counter-terrorism.

      The poorly-framed argument for such an audacious move collapsed under
      scrutiny (see footnote 1).

      The Singapore government however passionately embraced the idea to
      the exclusion of all consultations with Malaysia and Indonesia, the
      other major Strait nations. After a prolonged public outcry from the
      latter, the US and Singapore changed tack, which saw the Singapore
      government engaging in a ceaseless campaign of speeches and public
      media promulgations, both at home and abroad, urging closer
      cooperation between the Strait countries and the countries whose
      vessels ply the precarious water.

      The debate gradually diluted away from the memory of the multitude.
      But any illusion that Malaysia and Indonesia had put the matter
      behind them was laid to rest with the latest development.

      Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak had launched what looked
      ostensibly like a scornful response towards Indonesia, in the wake of
      the recent territorial dispute with Indonesia over the oil-rich
      region in the Sulawesi Sea:

      "If the pirates come from Indonesia, it's up to the Indonesians
      to take action against them. The principle of sovereignty has to be

      The day before, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda had
      volunteered to dispatch "boats and aircraft to help patrol the
      waters". A curious offer considering the resources Japan would
      have to expand to maintain such an operation without proximate
      logistic assistance.

      It would not escape many that Japan is the closest far eastern ally
      of the US, and that the latter have no hesitation of employing Japan
      as a proxy in their foreign policy. In fact, the cooperation of
      Singapore and Japan over the matter of regional maritime security has
      been cruising discreetly for some time.

      The US has been trying to gain legitimacy to patrol the region, and
      discreetly reinforce their intelligence gathering capabilities on
      maritime traffic to and from their pet preoccupations of the region,
      notably China. And Singapore has been an extremely cooperative
      partner in all ways imaginable.

      Indeed, the RMSI is very much alive and in progress, and the recent
      exhortation from Malaysia to Indonesia is translated to a call to the
      latter to avoid presenting Singapore and the US the necessary pretext
      to launch a full-scale effort to vindicate the RMSI under US aegis
      the background.

      It was a reminder to Singapore and the US that the RMSI is still very
      much ill-received by the highly nationalistic population of Muslim-
      dominated Malaysia and Indonesia.

      (Mr) Law Sin Ling


      (1) Letter to the US ambassador in reply to the published `letter
      of denial' from John Medeiros, Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of the
      United States of America.


      The Straits Times
      March 18, 2005
      Najib tells Jakarta: Hunt down pirates

      KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA yesterday urged Indonesia to hunt down the
      pirates who kidnapped three crew members of a Japanese-registered
      tugboat in the Malacca Strait this week.

      Malaysian authorities believe the attackers took their captives to
      Sumatra after boarding the Idaten in Malaysian waters at dusk on

      'Whoever they are, irrespective of whoever, action must be taken
      against them,' Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

      'If the pirates come from Indonesia, it's up to the Indonesians to
      take action against them.'

      About 15 armed pirates abducted the tugboat's Japanese captain and
      chief engineer and a Filipino engineer off Penang island.

      The vessel owners say they have not been contacted by the pirates or
      received any ransom demands so far.

      Datuk Seri Najib said Malaysia would do 'whatever we can' to protect
      vessels using the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest shipping
      lanes, but reiterated the stance of Malaysia and Indonesia that
      foreign help was not needed to patrol their waters.

      'The principle of sovereignty has to be respected,' he said.

      In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said yesterday
      Japan told Malaysia and other countries along the Malacca Strait that
      it was ready to send boats and aircraft to help patrol the waters,
      but it had not received any replies.

      Reports in Malaysian newspapers said the pirates had passed through a
      security dragnet set up after the incident because they were dressed
      as fishermen and used a boat which bore a Malaysian registration

      Maritime enforcement coordinating centre director First Admiral Abdul
      Hadi Abdul Rashid said: 'No checks were conducted on boats which bore
      Malaysian registration numbers and colours, thus allowing them to

      'In our enforcement operations, we only inspect foreign fishing
      vessels which encroach into our waters and not local ones. It is
      impossible for us to check all boats in our waters within a short

      He added that investigations had shown the boats to be Malaysian-
      owned but with false registration numbers.

      Marine police have pledged to increase protection for slow-moving
      tugboats and oil tankers, which are considered easier targets for
      pirates. The International Maritime Bureau recorded 37 pirate attacks
      in the strait last year. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS, THE NEW STRAITS TIMES


      No plans to unilaterally deploy US forces to secure Malacca Straits
      PRESS reports over the weekend may have given readers the
      misimpression that the United States plans to unilaterally deploy
      American military forces to provide security in the Malacca Straits.
      This is not the case.

      The US government and interested nations in the Asia-Pacific region
      have begun conceptual discussions about the development of a new
      programme called the Regional Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI).
      RMSI is very much in the preliminary, planning phase, with initial
      formal discussions scheduled to follow this summer. Admiral William
      Fargo told a congressional committee on March 31 of several
      hypothetical options, all of which will be explored with governments
      in the region, beginning later this year.

      In concept, RMSI is intended to address transnational threats and
      crime in the maritime domain. It will facilitate information-sharing
      and law-enforcement activities among participating nations to
      monitor, identify and intercept suspected vessels and activities in
      national and international waters.

      We recognise that the littoral states along the straits - Singapore,
      Malaysia and Indonesia - have special rights and responsibilities for
      maintaining the security of the straits; each participating nation
      will define how much, if any, RMSI activity will take place within
      its waters.

      The ultimate goal is to coordinate regional maritime-security
      capabilities to improve the security of the straits, which is so
      crucial to the international community, and create an environment
      hostile to terrorist and other criminal activities.

      Charge d'Affaires
      Embassy of the United States of America
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