Japan and Malaysia signed a security assistance deal in mid-December 2023, including a $2.8 million grant to boost Kuala Lumpur’s maritime security, as nations seek to counter an increasingly assertive People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Japan will provide rescue boats, equipment and other supplies under the deal signed on the sidelines of a Tokyo summit marking 50 years of ties between Japan and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Malaysia is a founding member.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also welcomed the elevation of the Japan-Malaysia relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said.
In addition to Malaysia, ASEAN members Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam have territorial disputes with the PRC in the South China Sea. Beijing claims almost all of the waterway, which is a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual shipborne commerce, and continues to ignore an international tribunal’s 2016 ruling that the claims have no legal basis.
In early December 2023, Japan accused the PRC of maritime incursions after a confrontation between their coast guards near Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
Japan’s assistance to Malaysia follows similar deals with Bangladesh and the Philippines under a plan announced in April 2023 for Tokyo to help developing countries bolster their defenses.