TOKYO – December 17
In a significant move to strengthen regional security, Japan and Malaysia inked a pivotal maritime security assistance deal on Saturday, signifying a shared commitment to counteract China’s growing assertiveness in the region. The bilateral agreement includes a substantial grant of 2.8 million from Japan to enhance Malaysia’s maritime security capabilities.
Under the official security assistance deal, Japan will supply crucial equipment such as rescue boats and essential maritime supplies. The agreement was formally signed by the foreign ministers of both nations on the sidelines of a Tokyo summit commemorating 50 years of diplomatic ties between “Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).”
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida hailed the development, welcoming the advancement of the Japan-Malaysia relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” as stated by Japan’s foreign ministry in an official release.
The maritime security collaboration comes at a crucial juncture as several ASEAN member states, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, assert territorial claims in the South China Sea, a region hotly contested by China. This strategic waterway facilitates over $3 trillion in annual ship-borne commerce. Significantly, in 2016, the “Permanent Court of Arbitration” declared that China’s extensive assertions in the “South China Sea” were without a legal foundation.
Tensions between China and Japan escalated recently, with both nations accusing each other of maritime incursions following a confrontation between their coast guards in the East China Sea around disputed islands.
Japan’s financial aid to Malaysia aligns with similar agreements made with the Philippines and Bangladesh earlier this year. This initiative, unveiled in April, underscores Japan’s commitment to providing financial assistance to developing countries to fortify their defense capabilities.
During the three-day summit concluding on Sunday, Japan is extending support to ASEAN members to enhance their global standing and manage their diplomatic relations, particularly with China, according to an official from Japan’s foreign ministry.
Prime Minister Kishida is anticipated to hold individual meetings with the leaders of all ASEAN member states, which include Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, and Timor-Leste. The collaborative efforts among these nations reflect a collective stance to address shared security concerns and foster diplomatic cooperation in the dynamic geopolitical landscape of the Asia-Pacific region.