Japan, Malaysia vow to boost defense cooperation amid China's rise

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Malaysian counterpart Anwar Ibrahim agreed Sunday to promote bilateral defense and maritime security cooperation amid China's increasing military assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

During their talks in Kuala Lumpur, Kishida, who arrived in Malaysia on Saturday for the second leg of his three-day trip that also included visiting the Philippines, said he and Anwar also affirmed cooperation over energy, including ensuring the stable supply of liquefied natural gas to Japan.

While tensions remain high between China, Malaysia and some other Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea due to overlapping territorial claims, topics discussed between the two leaders included Japan's new defense equipment support framework for countries that share values such as democracy and human rights.

"We agreed to accelerate adjustments toward the implementation of the OSA," Kishida told a joint press announcement with Anwar, referring to the grant program, called official security assistance.

Japan has designated four Asia-Pacific countries -- Bangladesh, Fiji, Malaysia and the Philippines -- as OSA recipients, earmarking 2 billion yen ($13 million) for the fiscal year through March 2024.

China has built artificial islands with military infrastructure in regional waters in recent years. The communist nation has also repeatedly sent its coast guard vessels around the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, claimed by Beijing, in the East China Sea.

The Japanese leader also highlighted the importance of securing a stable supply of LNG from Malaysia, as his resource-poor nation seeks to diversify material imports amid the energy crisis following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022.

Kishida and Anwar also agreed to promote trade and investment, alongside agreeing to cooperate in the field of education, with Japan's public University of Tsukuba set to establish a branch campus in Malaysia in September next year.

Kishida met with Anwar as Japan has been laying the groundwork for a special summit involving leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, scheduled to be held in Tokyo in December to commemorate 50 years of their friendship and cooperation.

© Kyodo News