Malaysia: Asia shouldn't choose between US, China

By ALEX KENNEDY | June 3, 2011 | 9:13 AM EDT

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers his keynote address at the opening session of the IISS Shangri-la Security Summit on Friday June 3, 2011 in Singapore.(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian countries shouldn't have to choose between being allies of the U.S. or China but must foster cooperation between them, Malaysia's prime minister said Friday.

Asia must foster cooperation between the U.S., the world's military superpower, and emerging power China in order to tackle regional security problems such as human trafficking, terrorism, drug smuggling and nuclear proliferation, Najib said in Singapore at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference.

"China is our partner and the U.S. is also our partner," Najib said in a speech. "It's not about taking sides."

"We must replace the old bilateralism of the Cold War, not with a new bilateralism, but with a multilateralism that can rise to the task ahead."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met Friday in Singapore with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Liang Guanglie, amid recent signs of warming relations between the two countries.

China's army chief of staff met with top U.S. military officials last month in Washington, and China for the first time chose to send its defense minister to the Singapore conference, now in its 10th year.

Gates will deliver a speech Saturday while Liang will address the conference Sunday.

"We face a new set of asymmetric and non-traditional security challenges that cannot be resolved in isolation or through the old security structures of the past," Najib said. "We must meet these challenges comprehensively and with no option off the table."

Najib also called on Southeast Asian trade pact ASEAN to develop a new rapid response team that can provide assistance when humanitarian disasters strike the region.