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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting at Abe's residence in Tokyo in 2016. Photo: Reuters

Japan sending military adviser to Malaysia, boosting regional presence in face of assertive China

Tokyo also sent recently military attachés to the Philippines and Vietnam, both of which have territorial disputes with Beijing


Japan is beefing up its military and diplomatic presence in Southeast Asia by sending an extra defence attaché to its embassy in Kuala Lumpur, adding to military officers sent to embassies in the Philippines and Vietnam last year.

A spokesman for the ministry confirmed the Malaysian appointment, funded in the 2018 budget, but declined to explain why Japan is stepping up military advisory and intelligence-gathering capabilities in Southeast Asia.

However, the official said the new permanent attaches “will not have any responsibilities for the security of Japanese embassies in those countries.”
An aerial photo taken from a Philippine military plane shows land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the South China Sea on May 11, 2015. Photo: Reuters

Media in Japan have reported that the military advisers have been tasked with deepening exchanges across the region, collecting and analysing intelligenceand promoting defence cooperation.

In its most recent white paper on security and defence spending, the ministry detailed a commitment to strengthening intelligence capabilities “in order that the MOD can promptly detect and swiftly respond to warnings of various situations in areas surrounding Japan and take measures based on medium-to-long-term military trends.”

As well as sending more defence attaches to partner nations, the ministry’s efforts will include boosting the Defence Intelligence Headquarters’ data gathering and analysis, while a large portion of the paper is given over to supporting partner states via defence arrangements including joint military exercises.
A Chinese national living in Malaysia shouts slogans during a protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Kuala Lumpur on September 19, 2012, against Japan's “nationalising” of disputed islands. Photo: Agence France-Presse

The appointments are being seen as another move by Tokyo to counter Beijing’s military assertiveness. That concern is shared by some governments in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and Vietnam, which have competing claims to atolls and islets in the South China Sea that have been occupied by China and developed into military installations.

Japan is also supporting regional allies with hardware including patrol boats and aircraft. Tokyo will provide the Philippines with three TC-90 training aircraft to help Manila improve its maritime monitoring in the face of Chinese encroachment into sea territories that are claimed by the Philippines.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Japan sends military adviser to Malaysia