ASEAN Beat | Security | Southeast Asia

Navy Chief Introductory Visit Puts Malaysia-Brunei Defense Relations Into Focus

The interaction spotlighted ongoing efforts to develop the security aspect of the wider bilateral relationship.

Prashanth Parameswaran
Navy Chief Introductory Visit Puts Malaysia-Brunei Defense Relations Into Focus

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during an engagement in Brunei during a visit to the country.

Credit: @chedetofficial

Earlier this month, Brunei’s new navy chief was in Malaysia for a scheduled introductory visit. The interaction spotlighted ongoing efforts by both sides to cultivate their defense ties within the broader Malaysia-Brunei bilateral relationship.

As I have noted before in these pages, Malaysia and Brunei, two Southeast Asian states and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), have a bilateral relationship that dates back to 1984 when Brunei got its independence from Britain. Both sides have attempted to advance collaboration including on the defense side in spite of some differences over boundaries and borders, including through aspects such as visits and exchanges, training, as well as exercises.

That has continued on over the past year as well amid broader domestic and foreign policy developments in both countries. For instance, just last month, Malaysia’s new army chief was in Brunei for an introductory visit that highlighted ongoing efforts to develop the defense aspect of the relationship amid changes in leadership positions within individual services on both sides.

Earlier this month, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of the Brunei navy chief to Malaysia. First Admiral Haji Othman bin Haji Suhaili Suhaily, the commander of the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) was in Malaysia for a trip from September 4 to September 6 that constituted his introductory visit to the country in his current capacity, which he had assumed back in April after a change of command ceremony.

The trip consisted of various interactions. In terms of meetings, the RBN chief met with a range of officials including the Malaysian navy chief and the Malaysian defense minister. Per Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during those meetings, both sides reaffirmed the commitment to further strengthening naval cooperation and relations and discussed specific ways too do so including expanding the scope of the navy-to-navy exercise, Exercise Hornbill.

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The trip also saw other developments as well. For instance, the RBN chief visited Malaysian defense facilities including the RMN Naval Base in Lumut, Perak, where, per MINDEF, he met with the commander of the RMN Western Fleet for a meeting and a brief and also visited several of the training centers there and interacted with Malaysian personnel that were present there. The RBN chief also attended a dinner hosted by his Malaysian counterpart, where both of them highlighted the importance of elevating the bilateral relationship and the significance of collaboration on issues to include maritime security.