TOKYO: Malaysia, which is set to assume the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2025, will leverage on the multilateral platform to tackle regional issues, including territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.

He said forums such as ASEAN were apt to address issues concerning the region.

“When I assume the chairmanship of ASEAN (in 2025), I will call for ASEAN countries to take a common position, so that multilaterally, we can engage with neighbours including China to find an amicable resolution to differences,” he said at a question-and-answer session at the Nikkei Forum 29th Future of Asia here.

Meanwhile, Anwar, who is also the Finance Minister reiterated that Malaysia is steadfast in its stand of not taking sides in the rivalry between the United States (US) and China, stressing the fact that Putrajaya will not be part of any ‘Cold War’ mindset and is fiercely neutral in this matter.

“Nobody, no country should dictate (what another country does) and we decide what is best for Malaysia,“ he said when asked on the growing competition between the US and China.

He added that Washington has been a traditional ally of Malaysia since its independence in 1957.

“Cumulatively, the US is still Malaysia’s biggest trading partner and investor, and they are very aggressive in promoting investment. Therefore, all the big players in the US are welcome to invest in Malaysia,” said the Prime Minister.

However, at the same time, Malaysia recognised Beijing’s growing economic and military strength.

“I don’t share this ‘China-phobia’ policy. While I maintain excellent relations with the US, Japan and South Korea, it is better for the region to continue to engage with China.

It is Malaysia’s hope that both China and the US resolve their differences amicably.

“For us, we will continue to engage and consider the US as an important ally, at the same time enhance our collaboration with China because they’re our important neighbour - too close, too important and too strategic to ignore,” he said.

Anwar is currently on a three-day working visit to the country.

Accompanying him are Minister of Foreign Affairs Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan; Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz; and Minister of Human Resources Steven Sim Chee Keong.