Mahathir Mohamad, who served as Malaysian prime minister for 22 years, said China poses no threat to the nations of Southeast Asia or the world, in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun.
With the East Asia summit scheduled for later this month, Mahathir, 85, was asked about how nations should deal with an emerging China as well as his views on Japan in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
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Excerpts of the interview follow:
Question: What are your views of the struggle between the United States and China in gaining the upper hand in Asia?
Mahathir: China has done very well to grow its economy and is among the leading countries in the world. This makes the United States feel threatened.
When China becomes rich and it is threatened by the United States wanting to have all other countries confront China, that, of course, makes China defend itself and led to its strengthened defense.
This will go on as long as China is threatened by the United States. But, I think this is the wrong strategy.
It is necessary to accept China as a big and rich country now.
I don't think China is a threat.
Q: How should Japan forge a good relationship with China?
A: China is quite unrealistic in asking Japan to always apologize. The main thing is to try and establish good diplomatic relations and good trade relations with China because China is a big market now. It will be very good for Japan.
Q: What are your thoughts about the confrontation between China and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Malaysia, over territorial rights to islands in the South China Sea?
A: We don't like having outside people come in and urge ASEAN countries to confront China, which is what the United States wants us to do. We think that ASEAN countries can settle this problem by themselves. There is no fear on the freedom of the sea for the United States or anybody. These are international trading routes because a lot of foreign ships will want to go to China and transport things from China to other parts of the world. How can you stop that?
Q: What are your thoughts on the huge earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March?
A: We are full of admiration for the Japanese facing this problem. They don't panic, cry for help and they are doing their best to restore the situation.
At the same time, Japan must reconsider where they put their factories and power plants, especially nuclear power plants. Maybe Japan needs to disperse the manufacturing to more stable places, including outside the country.
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