Earlier this month, Japan’s navy chief was on a visit to Brunei. The trip spotlighted some of the ongoing defense activities between the two sides in the maritime domain amid wider domestic and regional developments.
As I have noted before in these pages, Japan and Brunei share a contemporary defense partnership as part of their wider relationship which officially began in 1984, even though some aspects of this tend not to be publicized as widely. The defense aspect of the relationship includes various aspects including personnel exchanges, training, exercises, and visits by aircraft and vessels.
The efforts by both sides to advance the defense relationship have continued on over the past year as well, amid other domestic and regional developments. Japan, for its part, has looked at Brunei as one of a series of smaller countries with which it is looking to deepen ties as part of its wider approach towards the Indo-Pacific region. Brunei, on its end, continues to view Tokyo as among a set of key defense partners it would like to cultivate relations with on the security side as it undertakes its own domestic reforms, which have affected the military realm as well.
Earlier this month, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with a high-level visit by a Japanese defense official. Yukata Murakawa, the head of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), was on a trip to Brunei from January 31 to February 2 at the invitation of the commander of the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN).
Murakawa’s visit to Brunei included a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, he met with a range of officials including the chief of the RBN, the head of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), and Brunei’s second minister of defense – the defense minister portfolio still being held by Brunei’s sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of specifics were publicly disclosed about the details of the private meetings. With respect to the meeting between Murakawa and Brunei’s second minister of defense, Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF) said that the meeting saw both sides evaluate the state of the relationship between the navies of both countries as well as reiterate their commitment to further strengthening defense-related activities, including exchanges of visits, trainings, and exercises.
Apart from those meetings, Murakawa’s trips also consisted of other engagements as well. Among them were visits to defense facilities such as the headquarters of the RBN as well as the presentation of an award of the Royal Brunei Navy Command Badge to him in recognition and appreciation for his service in enhancing relations between the RBN and the JMSDF.