KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s armed forces said on Thursday they had received no offer from China to buy advanced rocket launchers and a radar system to be based at the southern tip of the Southeast Asian country, rebutting media reports.
The denial followed reports that a Chinese delegation visiting Malaysia this week had proposed basing the military equipment in Johor, a Malaysian state bordering Singapore.
Quoting an unidentified source, the Malaysian Insight news portal said the delegation made the offer on Wednesday, following the launch of a $13-billion rail project being built by China.
A Malaysia military spokesman said no such proposal had been received, however.
“As far as the armed forces are concerned, there has been no such proposal,” a spokesman for the Malaysian Armed Forces told Reuters by telephone.
According to the report, up to 12 units of the AR3 multiple-launch artillery rocket system (MLRS) were on offer in a purchase programme with a loan period of 50 years.
The size of the loan or the cost of the ordnance was not disclosed. The type of radar system was also not disclosed.
Singapore’s Straits Times also reported the offer, quoting a senior Malaysian government source on Thursday as saying it was “lightly touched on” during talks between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yong at the ground-breaking ceremony for the rail project.
The Straits Times said a firm decision on the proposal would only be made during a visit planned by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Malaysia later this year.
“This is the first time I’m hearing it,” Mohammad Irwan Serigar Abdullah, Malaysia’s treasury secretary-general, said, when asked by Reuters about the Chinese proposal.
China’s Foreign Ministry referred questions to the Defence Ministry. The Defence Ministry declined comment, saying weapons exports were not part of its remit.
The AR3 artillery rocket system was built by China specifically for export. It first came into use in 2011 and is regarded as one of the most powerful MLRS units available.
Malaysia signed a deal to buy four littoral mission ships from China last year.
Reporting by Praveen Menon in KUALA LUMPUR and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Sam Holmes in SINGAPORE; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez