Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak pledged to advance defense and maritime cooperation.
It is the first time that Japan has agreed to start negotiations for cooperation on the transfer of defense equipment and technology with a member of the 10-nation ASEAN according to Japanese officials.
Abe and Najib vowed to boost coordination in maritime security, with Abe backing Malaysia’s efforts in ensuring safety and security in the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, where Malaysia and some other Southeast Asian countries are locked in territorial disputes with China, according to the statement.
"As a concrete step, we've agreed to cooperate in defense equipment. Also, by reinforcing support to (Malaysia's) maritime law enforcement body, we will cooperate for maritime safety," Abe said.
Najib thanked Abe for Japan’s assistance in providing further capacity building to Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency, the statement said.
Given Malaysia’s role as ASEAN chair this year, Abe “expressed his full support” to Najib as the 10-nation bloc is lowering barriers to the flow of people, goods and money to launch a more integrated economic community by the end of the year.
Najib last week ordered the navy to rescue thousands of migrants adrift at sea in rickety boats. Many of the boat people are Rohingya Muslims, who have long complained of discrimination in Myanmar, and Bangladeshis fleeing persecution and poverty.