Ties between Singapore and Malaysia are set to become testy as China attempts to drive a wedge between the 2 neighbors with its actions in trade and defence.

According to The Malaysian Insight, China has promised loans for the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) that would link Port Klang to Kuantan and provide a rail bridge for goods from the Strait of Malacca to the South China Sea, effectively bypassing Singapore’s busy sea port.

China is also making a pitch for the KL-Singapore line, pointing out to Malaysian authorities that since China is going to finance a high-speed rail link from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, it should also be awarded the high speed rail contract for KL-Singapore. Kuala Lumpur is said to favor the Chinese contract, while Singapore is in favor of Japanese companies due to their experiences and technology.

Not much is known about the proposed rail link between KL and Bangkok except that the terminus is also expected to be in Bandar Malaysia.

Expressing concerns about the build up of the Islamic State in the region, China has also offered to build air defence and radar systems as a joint initiative to counter terrorism and gather intelligence on terrorists.

However, their true intentions may be to contain Singapore air power in the south, which China views as a proxy of US military power.

Key to this is the issue of airspace control, with Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore locked in constant dispute over who should maintain control over precious air flight territory in the region, which is now in the hands of Singapore.

Malaysia and Singapore are in the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA). Others in the FPDA set up to defend Malaysia and Singapore during the Cold War are the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

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