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Japan-Malaysia Maritime Security Cooperation Conference: A Brief Report

Ryosuke Hanada (Research Fellow)

Date: July 18, 2017

On July 18, 2017, the Japan Institute of International Affairs hosted the first meeting of the Japan-Malaysia Maritime Security Cooperation Conference. The Malaysia Institute of Maritime Affairs (MIMA) and the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) co-organized this conference with the support of both the Japanese and Malaysian governments to engage in meaningful discussions on bilateral maritime security cooperation.

Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Ahmad Ramli Hj. Mohd Nor, President of MIMA, led the Malaysian delegation, including MIMA executives and research fellows as well as representatives from Malaysia’s MOFA, Marine Department, Royal Malaysian Navy and Maritime Enforcement Agency, in fruitful exchanges of views with the Japanese delegation headed by Amb Yoshiji Nogami, President of JIIA. There were also participants in various capacities from Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines and India.

The conference addressed three major issues, namely (1) the way forward for regional security through bilateral and regional frameworks, (2) safety and security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, and (3) establishment of the rule of law to preserve a safe and secure global commons. China’s maritime expansion in the South China Sea was one of the topics that attracted much attention throughout the conference.

While the two sides identified shared positions on a rules-based regional order, maritime cooperation, states’ rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the arbitral award on the South China Sea issued in July 2016, there was a difference of ideas on how to preserve and promote them in dynamic regional security situations. In discussing the South China Sea issue, for example, the Malaysian delegates referred to the virtue of “quiet diplomacy,” while the Japanese delegates expressed their expectation that ASEAN states more actively contribute to the maintenance and enhancement of the rules-based regional order, and encouraged Southeast Asian states to free themselves from their self-perception as small countries and to stop underestimating their roles and significance.

At the end of the conference, the representatives of the two think-tanks expressed their satisfaction that open and active exchanges of views had taken place and agreed upon the importance of continuing such dialogue.


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