Japan to provide rescue boats to Malaysian military amid China’s rise

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed Saturday with his Malaysian counterpart Anwar Ibrahim to supply rescue boats to the Southeast Asian nation’s military, with China’s growing maritime assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific in focus.

The provision would be carried out under Tokyo’s new framework for like-minded countries that share fundamental values, called official security assistance or OSA. Malaysia is the third country, after the Philippines and Bangladesh, to engage with Japan on the program, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Kishida and Anwar reached the agreement during talks in Tokyo on the sidelines of three-day events related to a special summit starting Saturday between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to commemorate 50 years of friendship and cooperation.

The latest assistance offered to Malaysia by Japan, which has a war-renouncing Constitution that prohibits the maintenance of military forces, is worth 400 million yen ($2.8 million). Tokyo will also offer surveillance drones to Kuala Lumpur, the ministry said.

At the meeting, Kishida expressed hope that bilateral cooperation can be strengthened “to uphold the free and open international order based on the rule of law,” while Anwar said Japan’s roles in securing stability in Asia are “pivotal” and “strategic” for Malaysia.

With China apparently in mind, Tokyo launched the security assistance program in April and designated four countries, including Fiji, as recipients.

It allocated 2 billion yen in the budget for the current fiscal year through March 2024.

Japan regards its relations with ASEAN as strategically important, with the bloc facing the South China Sea, home to one of the world’s busiest maritime sea lanes. Some of the 10 ASEAN members have overlapping territorial claims with China there.

During three days through Monday, Kishida is set to hold bilateral talks with nine leaders of ASEAN nations. Myanmar, which has been under military rule since a February 2021 coup, was not invited.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga

Source KYODO