Japan–Malaysia relations (Japanese: 日本とマレーシアの関係 (Nippon to Marēshia no Kankei); Malay: Hubungan Jepun–Malaysia) refers to bilateral foreign relations between the two countries, Japan and Malaysia. The earliest recorded historical relation between the two nations are the trade relations between the Malacca Sultanate and the Ryūkyū Kingdom in the 15th century. This continued well into the 20th century with the rise of the Empire of Japan and its subsequent invasion and occupation of British Malaya and Borneo during World War II.
Japan maintains an embassy in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, a consulate-general office in George Town, Penang and a consular office in Kota Kinabalu. Malaysia has an embassy in Shibuya, Tokyo. The current Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia is Makio Miyagawa, and the current Malaysian Ambassador to Japan is Datuk Ahmad Izlan Idris.
The Ryūkyū Kingdom held trade relations with the Malacca Sultanate in the 15th century. Its maritime trade with kingdoms in Southeast Asia included Japanese products—silver, swords, fans, lacquerware, folding screens—and Chinese products—medicinal herbs, minted coins, glazed ceramics, brocades, textiles—were traded for Southeast Asian sappanwood, rhino horn, tin, sugar, iron, ambergris, Indian ivory and Arabian frankincense. Altogether, 150 voyages between the kingdom and Southeast Asia on Ryūkyūan ships were recorded in the Rekidai Hōan, an official record of diplomatic documents compiled by the kingdom, as having taken place between 1424 and the 1630s, with 61 of them bound for Siam, 10 for Malacca, 10 for Pattani and 8 for Java, among others.
World War II
In the 20th century, Japan has established itself as an imperial superpower and launched offensives throughout Southeast Asia, including Malaya occupied by the British at the time. The Malayan Campaign from 8 December 1941 saw the Imperial Japanese Army overwhelming British and Commonwealth troops. The Japanese occupation saw an emerging Anti-Japanese movement in Malaya, fuelled by their contempt for the Japanese invasion of China, within the Chinese community which resulted in the establishment of the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).
The movement did not find enough support from the Malays and Indians with whom the Imperial Japanese Army has engaged in a propaganda of "Asia untuk Orang Asia" ("Asia for Asians"), portraying the Japanese as the locals' saviours from British rule. The local population found inspiration for independence from witnessing the ability of Imperial Japan driving away the European colonialists in Southeast Asia. The Kesatuan Melayu Muda (Young Malay Union) worked with the Japanese to spread ideologies against British imperialists. However, the Japanese authorities had not entertained requests of independence by the local population. Significant support for the Japanese deteriorated and the British was able to regain Malaya, Singapore as well as North Borneo at the end of World War II.
With its defeat and subsequent occupation at the hands of the United States, Japan has sought to re-establish diplomatic relations with its neighbouring countries. The Malayan independence from the British on 31 August 1957 was followed by an establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan. The Japanese embassy was established in Kuala Lumpur on 9 September 1957.
Look East Policy
The "Look East Policy" was an economic policy announced by the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad during the "5th Joint Annual Conference of MAJECA/JAMECA" at the Hilton Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 8 February 1982. The policy was established as a follow-up to the "Buy British Last" policy that was also announced by the prime minister on October 1981.
The policy sought to learn from Japan and South Korea, regarded as superpowers of the East, the work ethics, practices and policies that have helped the two nations advance in various industrial and economic sectors at times much more than its Western counterparts. Students and civil servants have been sent to study courses in industrial, technical, executive and commercial sectors. Official figures have estimated as much as 15,000–16,000 Malaysian citizens benefited from the policy since the inception in 1982, and the current Malaysian government has sought to revise the policy to include green technology and biotechnology.
Total trade between Malaysia and Japan in 2011 was at RM145.3 billion with RM80 billion contributed by exports from Malaysia to Japan, while imports from Japan amounted to RM65.3 billion. There are about 1,400 Japanese companies operating in Malaysia, creating more than 11,000 job opportunities.
Japan has increased its import of liquefied natural gas to about 34%. Before 2007, the bilateral rate between both countries were at a deficit. In the halal industry, halal certification endorsement by the Malaysian government has allowed Malaysian companies in the halal food industry to compete well in the Japanese market. The building of a halal park in Japan is also considered.
In 2016, around 413,000 Japanese tourists have visited Malaysia, while 394,000 Malaysian tourists visited Japan. Until 2017, there is around 1,500 Japanese companies operating in Malaysia. To encourage more Japanese companies to invest in Malaysia, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SIMBC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) and InvestKL. On 5 May 2017, both countries concluding a currency swap arrangement of up to US$3 billion through Bank of Japan (BOJ) and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to contribute to financial market stability and strengthen ties between both nations.
The Japanese and Malaysian Government had visited each other on multiple occasions. Notable visits include the Sultan of Malaysia visiting Japan in 2005 while in 2006, the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Malaysia. Both Japan and Malaysia are members of East Asia Summit, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, ASEAN+3 and World Trade Organization.
In September 2016, the Japanese government through its Prime Minister Shinzō Abe have give Malaysia free patrol boats following a similar agreements with Philippines and Vietnam. The military vessels, which previously used by the Japan Coast Guard handed to Malaysia to counter Chinese military activities in the waters of Malaysia. On May 2017, Japan seek to give their P-3C patrol planes to Malaysia.
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