The Straits of Malacca stretches between Peninsular Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The littoral states of the Straits of Malacca are Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The Strait, situated between the coastline of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to the east and the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the west, extends 500 miles from its widest point (350 km between Northern Sumatra and Thailand) to its narrowest (less than 3 km wide between southern Sumatra and Singapore). The Straits of Malacca is an important shipping lane in the world. Every year, more than 60,000 ships pass through the Straits of Malacca carrying various cargoes, from crude oil to finished products from all over the world.This number is nearly three times the number of ships that navigate through the Panama Canal and more than double the number that uses the Suez Canal. The Straits of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, is one of the busiest ocean highways in the world. About 30 per cent of the world’s traded goods and 80 percent of Japan’s oil needs are transported through this busy waterway.Since the Straits of Malacca is vital to the world community, its safe keeping, especially in terms of the security of its sea-lane of commerce, must be ensured in order that the Strait will continuously facilitate world trade. Any disruption or blockage of the Straits of Malacca, either by terrorist groups or by nation states, could prompt many parties to intervene and undermine the sovereignty of the littoral states over it. One of the issues in the Straits of Malacca today is the threat of maritime security from piracy and possible terrorism, or the nexus between these two activities. Because of this, there has recently been increasing fear over the safety of navigation in the Straits of Malacca. This fear arises from the high incidence of piracy and armed attacks against ships in the Strait and assessments that terrorist groups might have, or could quickly acquire, the capabilities to attack ships. Piracy has been a considerable problem in the Strait in recent years; rising from 11 attacks in 2002 to 24 and 25 attacks in 2003 and in 2004 respectively.In 2005, from the month of January till September there are 10 attacks by the pirates against the merchant ships and fishing boats. With these recent incidents as a reminder, the United States (US) as a international stakeholders has been expressing her concern for the safety of the strait and proposed to conduct patrols by US marines in the Straits of Malacca. This was announced by Admiral Thomas Fargo, head of US Forces in the Asia Pacific in 2004. US troops, it was proposed could assist in patrolling the strait to deter piracy and terrorists who might target shipping in the Straits of Malacca. Littoral states like Malaysia and Indonesia feel that there is no necessity for the presence of extra-regional forces for the purpose of securing the Strait and that such presence will impinge on their sovereignty.
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