South China Sea: Battleships may lead to war - Malaysia PM

Tensions in the South China Sea, could escalate into conflict and war if countries start stationing their warships in the area, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has said.

“China has every right to go wherever they want to go, but please don’t prevent ships from passing through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea,” he told BBC Hardtalk’s Zeinab Badawi on Monday.

“Our policy is to not have battleships and warships in the South China Sea because if people start stationing their warships there, there will be tension, there will be conflict and it may result in a war,” Mr Mahathir said.

Six countries have competing claims in the South China Sea.

Tensions have increased in recent years and China has backed its claims with island-building and naval patrols.

The US, which says it does not take sides in territorial disputes, has sent military ships and planes near disputed islands, calling them "freedom of navigation" operations to ensure access to key shipping and air routes.

Why is the South China Sea contentious?

Watch the full interview on Tuesday 2 October 2018 on BBC World News and Wednesday 3 October 2081 on the BBC News Channel or watch again on BBC iPlayer (UK only).