Asia Defense

Japan to Give Malaysia 2 Large Vessels During Najib Visit

New deal could be inked later this week.

Japan to Give Malaysia 2 Large Vessels During Najib Visit
Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

Japan is set to give Malaysia two large patrol vessels during Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit to Tokyo later this week in a boost for the country’s maritime capabilities, Malaysian media reported Monday.

After a visit to China earlier this month, Najib is set to make a trip to Japan, which has traditionally been a key Malaysian partner as well, beyond Washington and Beijing, as I have repeatedly pointed out (See: “Malaysia is Not Pivoting to China With Najib’s Visit”).

One of the items on the agenda, The New Straits Times reported Monday, will be Japan’s provision of two used Coast Guard patrol vessels to Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), the country’s equivalent of a coast guard. The vessels would be provided at no cost and transferred to Malaysia during the first half of 2017 along with the necessary training and support.

The report is just the latest in a series of public revelations on the potential deal that resurfaced during the lead up to the recent round of ASEAN meetings in the Lao capital of Vientiane. Japanese media reports in September and October had earlier speculated that Tokyo would repair two large patrol vessels used by the Japanese coast guard and give them to Malaysia, utilizing official development assistance (ODA) funds for the repair work.

If realized, the deal would represent just the latest development in the longstanding and deepening security relationship Malaysia enjoys with Japan, with both countries sharing a number of concerns, including China’s maritime assertiveness in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

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The strategic partnership that the two countries inked back in 2015 contained a heavy maritime security focus, and though details were left to be worked out, at the time there were indications that Japan would help boost the capabilities of Malaysia’s coast guard and that the two countries would move toward an agreement that would facilitate, among other things, the transfer of defense equipment and technology (See: “Japan and Malaysia’s New Strategic Partnership”).

Japan has been stepping up its maritime security assistance to several Southeast Asian countries since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office. In September, Japan agreed to provide two additional large patrol vessels to the Philippines following Abe’s meeting with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Laos (See: “Japan to Give Philippines Two Large Patrol Vessels”).