ASEAN nations spurred by China tensions to boost security ties

Tokyo: Leaders from Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, marking their 50th anniversary of friendship, were meeting at a special summit on Sunday and expected to adopt a joint vision that emphasises security co-operation amid growing tensions with China in regional seas.

Ties between Japan and ASEAN used to be largely based on Japanese assistance to the developing economies, in part due to lingering bitterness over Japan’s wartime actions. The ties have more recently focused more on security amid China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, while Japan’s postwar pacifist stance and trust-building efforts have fostered friendlier relations.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during the opening session of the ASEAN summit.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during the opening session of the ASEAN summit.Credit: AFP

“The rules-based, free and open international order is faced with serious challenges,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in his opening speech at Sunday’s summit. “We are facing complex and compounded issues such as climate change and [economic] disparities, and I hope to have candid discussions with ASEAN leaders to work out our concrete co-operation.”

In an earlier speech at the State Guest House in Tokyo, Kishida proposed bolstering ties between Japan and ASEAN in security as well as in business, investment, climate, technology and people exchanges.

On the sidelines of the summit, which is running from December 16 to 18, Kishida held a series of bilateral talks as Japan seeks to step up bilateral security ties with ASEAN countries.

Kishida and his Malaysian counterpart, Anwar Ibrahim, signed a 400 million yen ($4.2 million) deal to bolster Malaysia’s maritime security capability. It is a new Japanese official security assistance program specifically for militaries of friendly nations to help strengthen their law enforcement and security capabilities.

Leaders of ASEAN nations at the 50th anniversary summit.

Leaders of ASEAN nations at the 50th anniversary summit.Credit:

The assistance includes provisions of rescue boats and other equipment to help improve the military capability of Malaysia, which sits at a crucial location on sea lanes connecting the Indian Ocean and East Asia and serves a vital role in warning and surveillance operations for the entire region.

Separately, Kishida signed a deal with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, offering a grant of up to 9.05 billion yen to fund Indonesia’s maritime security capability advancement plan and includes a Japanese-built large-scale maritime patrol boat.

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