The Malaysian Prime Minister, addressing the 25th International Conference on The Future of Asia, also known as the Nikkei Conference, said conflicts must be resolved through negotiation, arbitration and the court of law.
“If we want a better world with a new order that is based solely on our subscription to the rule of international law, we resolve all problems through negotiation and not through confrontation and sending warships here and there,” he said in the keynote address.
Dr Mahathir said the first thing the world needs to decide is that all conflicts must be settled at the table and countries must be prepared to give up something to reach an agreement.
“Of course, all solutions cannot be satisfactory to everyone. If we are going to have a win-win situation, then everyone must be prepared to give up something.
“If we cannot decide ourselves, then let the court decide, and respect the decision of the court,” he said.
Dr Mahathir lambasted the aggressive mindset in dealing with confrontation, saying that “the world is still very primitive when we cannot solve our problems except by confrontation, violence, destruction and killing a huge number of people.
“If we resort to war and keep increasing our capacity to kill and destroy, then we cannot call ourselves a civilisation,” he said.
Speaking to about 300 participants, Dr Mahathir said the current situation in the world was not stable as there were problems in North America, Latin America, Europe, various parts of Asia and certainly in the Middle East, as well as the confrontation between the United States and China.
“And the whole world is affected even if we are not part of the contestants. As they said when two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled under.
“We can see in the last war when seven million people were killed, we did not achieve any good results for anybody. It is during peace that the countries were able to develop,” he said.
Quoting ASEAN as an example, Dr Mahathir said the regional organisation was saddled by various conflicts when it first mooted out.
“When we gained independence, there were serious confrontations, claims and counterclaims. Southeast Asia now is very stable and peaceful because ASEAN decided to come together regularly and meet every year to settle every problem at the table and not battlefields,” he said.
The approach has indeed benefited ASEAN countries’ economy tremendously, he said.
On China, Dr Mahathir said problems with the country cannot be resolved through hostility, sending battleships and carrying out exercises that might result in strong confrontation.
“The reaction of China, of course, is to grow its military capability and be threatening. If this is the way we settle our problems with the new China, then we will lose everything,” Dr Mahathir explained.
He added that the world needs a forum involving the leaders but even the United Nations had been disregarded by big powers.
“These powers do whatever they want regardless of the international laws that applied to everyone in this world.
“Always we see that there are confrontations and the need to threaten. Some slight incident may lead to war. If there’s a war now, we can destroy the whole world. One must remember, the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo triggered World War 1 that killed millions of people.
“We cannot afford to have incident like that to happen in Southeast Asia for example and that is why Malaysia advocates that there should be no warship stationed in the South China Sea,” said Dr Mahathir.
He added warships were welcome to pass through but having aggressive fleet is not something that can stabilise the area.