On October 1, ASEAN and Japan convened the second ASEAN Plus Japan ministerial meeting on transnational crime (AMMTC + Japan) in Kuala Lumpur. Two issues that were of particular concern were terrorism and cyber crime.
Though ASEAN and Japan have held annual senior official meetings on transnational crime since 2003, Japan proposed that it be upgraded to a ministerial level in 2013 in line with the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan relations. The first ministerial meeting was held in Vientiane in 2013.
According to the joint statement issued following this meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the two sides focused on countering terrorism and cyber crime. The focus on these issues is not surprising considering the rise of the Islamic State threat, which has spooked some ASEAN states, as well as cyber attacks that have exposed the vulnerability of the subregion in recent years. On the former, the statement reaffirmed the importance of strengthening counterterrorism capacity and cooperation as well as the sharing of experience, knowledge and information including through the ASEAN-Japan Counter Terrorism Dialogue.
On the latter, the emphasis was on expediting initiatives to enhance counter-cybercrime capacity, including through the ASEAN-Japan Cybercrime Dialogue inaugurated in May last year which they hope will become the foundation of cooperation. The reference to the threat as “grave and imminent” gives a sense of how urgent the issue is to the countries of concern.
Following the meeting, Malaysian deputy home minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told media outlets that Japan had expressed its willingness to bear the cost in organizing an ASEAN Japan committee dialogue on terrorism and cyber crime expected to be held in the first or second quarter of next year. ASEAN, he said, had also asked Tokyo for more technical and financial assistance.
“We (ASEAN) have asked Japan for more technical and financial assistance to enable us to carry out activities and training for our police, maritime and national security council officers in countering cyber crime and terrorism.”
“So Japan will help in the form of dialogue, training and exchange of information,” he said.
The next AMMTC + Japan consultation will be held in Myanmar in 2017. Over the next two years, ASEAN and Japan will work towards promulgating new initiatives as well as implementing the work plan for cooperation to combat terrorism and transnational crime adopted at the senior official level on 28 September.