TL;DR – Yes, no, maybe?
A KL-based news website, Malaysian Insight, published a report that China will offer Malaysia advanced rocket launchers and a radar system, to be based in Johor. The rocket launchers have a range of 220km and could easily hit Singapore.
As if that wasn’t alarming in itself, the report was published on Singapore’s National Day.
But in a confusing turn of events, the very next day, Malaysia’s defence ministry came out to deny that China has offered Malaysia advanced rocket launchers and a radar system to be based in Johor. Deputy Defence Minister Johari Baharum said:
“No such thing. No such discussion.”
— Sumisha Naidu (@SumishaCNA) August 10, 2017
Malaysia’s Treasury secretary-general also said he was not aware of any such deal.
So what’s going on here? We suggest three possibilities.
1. The deal is real, but supposed to be hush-hush
It could be that China is indeed going to offer Malaysia those rocket launches and the radar system. But, as with many military acquisitions, such things are meant to be hush-hush. You want to get weapons, just in case, but you also don’t want your neighbours to know exactly what you got. For two reasons.
First, you don’t want your neighbours to start getting alarmed by what you got. If they get alarmed, they may start getting new weapons of their own. Tensions rise, and that leads to an increase possibility of a fight breaking out. Second, if a fight really breaks out, you don’t want the other side to know exactly what capabilities you have. If the other side knows exactly what capabilities you have, then they can come up with ways to counter your capabilities.
So perhaps the deal is real, but it shouldn’t have been announced in the media. That’s why the government officials are doing damage control and denying the reports, hoping that would convince people that there isn’t such a deal, even though there is.
2. Malaysian Insight duped with wrong information
Perhaps Malaysian Insight’s sources deliberately fed them with wrong information. And the Malaysian Insight honestly thought that they had some exclusive scoop that the mainstream media didn’t. Except that the sources were just using the Malaysian Insight to raise tensions between Malaysia and Singapore. And Malaysian Insight unwittingly played right into the hands of those sources.
If that’s the case, then it’s worrying and raises many questions. Who are the powers directing the actions of those sources? What do they want to achieve in raising tensions between Malaysia and Singapore? What do they stand to gain? More importantly, how far would they go?
3. Malaysian Insight deliberately released fake news
The last possibility we can think of is that the Malaysian Insight had deliberately released fake news. They knew it’s fake, and they still released it. They knew that it would elicit certain reactions and responses from Singaporeans. Singaporeans will get worked up, some will say some nasty things about Malaysia and Malaysians.
That in turn will make Malaysians react and respond in a certain way. It will focus Malaysians attention on Singaporeans’s reaction and response to the point that it would distract them from other issues.
It’s not the first time Malaysia does something like that. When their General Elections are round the corner, they do something similar – find some reason to whack and poke Singapore. And Malaysia is due to have their General Elections latest by August 2018.
Of course, the above three possibilities are pure speculations on our part. We may never know what exactly happened. Is Malaysia really going to get those rocket launchers and that radar from China? We don’t know. Why the conflicting reports? We don’t know.
But one thing we do know for sure is that we should keep calm, and don’t do anything that would raise tensions.
At the same time, we should continue to build up our capabilities and steel our will to defend ourselves.
That’s the only way we can continue to exist as an independent and sovereign nation.