PUTRAJAYA, MALAYSIA – Japan and Malaysia have agreed on the importance of abiding by international law in addressing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China is claiming islands in direct competition with Southeast Asian countries.
During a summit Thursday in Putrajaya, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, also confirmed plans to promote cooperation in developing Malaysia’s infrastructure in areas such as high-speed rail, waterworks, sewage systems and medicine.
The two leaders conferred about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, which Japan has officially joined, a Japanese official said.
Abe expressed concern about China’s activities related to its territorial claims in the South China Sea, noting it is important for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to play a “central role” in addressing the issue, the official said.
“All the countries concerned should adhere to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and other relevant international laws, including refraining from taking unilateral action, and should make clear the international law on which claims are based,” Abe was quoted as telling Najib.
The Malaysian leader responded that his country takes the same position.They agreed to strengthen cooperation between the defense authorities and coast guards of the two countries over maritime affairs.
Abe expressed hope that a legally binding and effective code of conduct will be crafted, given that China and ASEAN recently agreed to talk about creating such a code to help prevent conflicts in the sea.
Abe said during a post-summit news conference that he also conveyed to Najib Japan’s intention to put emphasis on Japan-ASEAN ties as it sets about “strategic diplomacy that will contribute to peace and prosperity in the world.”
The two prime ministers agreed that by building on Malaysia’s decades-old Look East Policy, the two countries should build new bilateral ties that “meet the changing needs of the times,” Abe added.
The policy aims at promoting a Japanese-style work ethic and acquiring Japanese technological know-how.
Malaysia was the first stop on Abe’s three-nation tour of Southeast Asia that began Thursday, a trip aimed at deepening economic and security ties with ASEAN and countering China.
Abe was scheduled to hold talks with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday in Singapore and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday in Manila.
He was also scheduled to meet with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Singapore on Friday.