Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia has decided to accede to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, allowing the country to conduct its own scientific expedition in the southernmost continent instead of the current practice of sending researchers to join other countries' expedition.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Dr Maximus Ongkili said the accession to the treaty would also allow Malaysia to establish its own research base in the continent and that all findings by its researchers there can be patented.

"This will boost the country's current scientific efforts on the continent to a whole new level," he said in a statement.

The decision to accede to the treaty was made at the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Malaysia will join the Antarctic Treaty as a non-consultative party, with the view of becoming a consultative party in the future, giving the country a part in decision-making during the treaty's consultative meeting.

The Antarctic Treaty, signed in Washington in 1959, sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity there.

It also internationalises and demilitarises the Antarctic continent and provides for its cooperative exploration and future use.

It served as a model for later non-armament treaties and has since been acceded to by 48 nations.

Malaysia has been involved in scientific research in Antarctica since 1997 when New Zealand opened its Scott Base to Malaysian scientists.

(Agencies)