Japan keen to offer new defence equipment

KUALA LUMPUR: Japan is willing to offer new defence equipment and technologies, including military aircraft to Malaysia as part of enhanced bilateral security ties, Japan’s envoy to Malaysia said.

Dr Makio Miyagawa told the New Straits Times the offer by Tokyo would help strengthen Malaysia’s capability of “maintaining peace and stability” in Southeast Asia.

He said in an interview that in this regard, Japan was “willing to offer our equipment and technologies to Malaysia, which include aircraft, vessels, radar and other items”.

Japan and Malaysia had, in September, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to intensify defence and security cooperation.

The MoU was signed in Japan on Sept 11 by Japan’s then defence minister Itsunori Onodera and his Malaysian counterpart, Mohamad Sabu.

Tokyo has said the MoU provided a structure for expanded collaboration across a range of activities, including defence equipment and technologies, military-to-military exchanges, joint maritime security and disaster relief operations.

Both sides had concluded an agreement to transfer defence and technologies to Malaysia, he added.

“Aircraft, vessels and radars can be transferred to Malaysia,” Miyagawa said.

“We have started to consider allowing our industries to provide such equipment to a limited number of countries and strategic partners, which include Malaysia.”

In terms of defence technologies, Tokyo said the MoU had strengthened an agreement that was signed in Kuala Lumpur in April by Miyagawa and Malaysia’s Defence Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi.

The MoU signing on defence collaboration marked yet another effort by both countries to further boost their security ties.

This comes in the wake of warmer Kuala Lumpur-Tokyo bilateral ties following the election of a new government in Malaysia, which saw the return of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to power.

Boosting Malaysia-Japan relations had been a major focus for Dr Mahathir during his previous tenure as prime minister under the banner of the so-called Look East Policy.

Defence analysts said Malaysia had a longstanding security relationship with Japan, with both nations sharing a number of concerns on the defence issues, including but not limited to China’s rising maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The strategic partnership that the two countries inked back in 2015 contained a heavy security focus as well, which included not only an increased focus on engagements like military exercises, but also Japan helping boost Malaysia’s capabilities through more advanced transfers of defence equipment and technology and other forms of knowledge sharing and capacity building.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu (left) signing a memorandum of understanding with then Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera in Tokyo in September. FILE PIC

Mohamad Sabu has said such pacts serve as umbrella agreements around which collaboration can occur, and that Malaysia also recognises Japan’s longstanding significance as a security partner in areas ranging from defence equipment to peacekeeping.

Unsurprisingly, few specifics were provided then on the detailed contents of the agreement.

Malaysian Defence Ministry’s shopping list includes a mix of both manned and unmanned aerial platforms to fulfil the country’s maritime patrol requirements.

Mohamad Sabu has assured that the new administration, which came to power in May, would honour plans made under the previous government. These include a programme to equip the Royal Malaysian Air Force with new maritime patrol aircraft.

However, the government is now making cost comparisons between manned and unmanned aircraft, and may eventually decide on a combination of both types to fulfil the country’s maritime surveillance requirements. The minister did not however give details on the types of equipment being compared.

Defence News, a defence magazine, had earlier reported that Malaysia had requested from Japan its Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion aircraft that are being progressively retired by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. Japan’s recently revised Self-Defence Forces Law is clearing the way for such a donation to happen.

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