Japan’s quick action on Tun Mahathir’s request for joint oil spill response


KUALA LUMPUR: Japan has taken quick action on a request by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for joint collaboration between the two countries in oil spill response, especially in the South China Sea.

This manifested in a five-day workshop held in Port Klang last week between the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) that saw the concurrent deployment for the first time of a JCG patrol vessel and airplane in Malaysian waters.

The Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister for National Security Affairs, Minoru Kihara, was here for three days last week to give a pep talk and cheer up the crew members of JCG patrol vessel ECHIGO (Commanding Officer, Captain Kiyoshi Harada) headed by JCG Deputy Director-General, Vice Admiral Shiro Suzuki.

The workshop aimed to enhance the capability of MMEA personnel and optimise the use of its equipment in managing oil spills in national waters as well as in providing early assistance in the event of an oil spill.

Minoru Kihara

As part of the exercise involving coast guard boats from both countries, Japanese coast guard officials boarded Malaysian vessels conducting joint training to address issues of oil spills, including using latest Japanese technology in dealing with oil spills.

According to MMEA statistics, a total of 16 oil spill incidents were recorded in Malaysian territorial waters last year, the bulk of which in the South China Sea.

Kihara also met briefly with Dr Mahathir, and held discussions with Home Affairs Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong.

“The collaboration in the field of oil spill response was directly requested by Prime Minister (Dr) Mahathir to our Prime Minister Abe. Japan-Malaysia collaboration has been going on for many years but particularly it is becoming more and more active in ensuring maritime safety and security,” he told Bernama.

He said in his talks with Muhyiddin and Liew, they agreed to continue the wide-ranging as well as specific collaboration between the two countries based on the agreement between both prime ministers to revitalise Malaysia’s Look East Policy.

” We will continue or even strengthen the collaboration between MMEA and the JCG towards realising a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Kihara added.

With regards to the South China Sea, he said Japan shared its serious concern on the current situation.

“At the same time, diplomatic efforts would be made to ease such concerns to find a peaceful solution.

“We believe that unilateral actions in enforcing the change of the status quo should not happen. This is Japan’s belief,’ said Kihara.

He said moving forward, future areas of collaboration should cover human resource development.

“As both our nations are surrounded by the ocean, we both have similarities in terms of maritime policy issues and we feel that Japan can play a further role with Malaysia in this area.

“And this time we are here on behalf of the Japanese government to look at the cooperation that is ongoing to see what more can be done.”

Asked about his impression of the MMEA, he said:” I had the opportunity to see first hand the skills of MMEA in those areas where Japan maybe slightly ahead. We would definitely be more than willing to share our knowledge with Malaysia in the areas of capacity building or any other request that Malaysia may have”.