Japan–Malaysia relations

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Japan–Malaysia relations
Map indicating locations of Japan and Malaysia


Diplomatic mission
Japanese Embassy, Kuala LumpurMalaysian Embassy, Tokyo
Ambassador Makio MiyagawaAmbassador Ahmad Izlan Idris

Japan–Malaysia relations (Japanese: 日本とマレーシアの関係 Nihon to marēshia no kankei; Malay: Hubungan Jepun–Malaysia; Jawi: هوبوڠن جيڤون–مليسيا) 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. Small numbers of Japanese settlers migrated to various parts of present-day Malaysia throughout the 19th century. This continued well into the 20th century, until relations reached an abrupt nadir with the rise of the Empire of Japan and its subsequent invasion and occupation of British Malaya and Borneo during World War II. Relations gradually improved after the war, culminating in Malaysia's "Look East" policy during the first premiership of Mahathir Mohamad in the 1980s.

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.[1] Malaysia has an embassy in Shibuya, Tokyo.[2] The current Japanese Ambassador to Malaysia is Makio Miyagawa, and the current Malaysian Ambassador to Japan is Datuk Ahmad Izlan Idris. The two countries enjoy warm diplomatic relations. According to a 2013 Pew survey, 80% of Malaysians hold a positive view of Japan and its influence.[3]

Country comparison[edit]

 Japan  Malaysia
Coat of Arms Imperial Seal of Japan.svg Coat of arms of Malaysia.svg
Flag Japan Malaysia
Population 127,590,000 31,360,000
Area 377,873 km2 (145,898 sq mi) 330,803 km2 (127,724 sq mi)
Population Density 337.6/km2 (874/sq mi) 92/km2 (240/sq mi)
Time zones 1 1
Capital Tokyo Kuala Lumpur
Largest City Tokyo – 13,617,445 Kuala Lumpur – 1,768,000
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy Federal parliamentary elective constitutional monarchy
Established 11 February 660 BCE (Ascension of Emperor Jimmu)
28 April 1952 (Sovereignty returned)
31 August 1957 (Independence from the British Empire proclaimed for the Federation of Malaya)
16 September 1963 (Proclamation of Malaysia)
Predecessor States Edo Period (1603–1868)
Edo Shogunate (1600–1868)
Ryukyu Kingdom (1429–1879)
Ezo Republic (1869)
Western Colonial Period (1580–1854)
Portuguese Nagasaki (1580–1586)
Dejima (1641–1854)
Japanese Imperial Period (1868–1945)
 Empire of Japan (1868–1945)
Post–War Period (1945–present)
Portuguese Colonial Period (1511–1641)
Portuguese Malacca (1511–1641)
Dutch Colonial Period (1641–1825)
Dutch Malacca (1641–1795; 1818–1825)
British Colonial Period (1771–1946)
Straits Settlements (1826–1946)
 Federated Malay States (1895–1946)
Unfederated Malay States (1909–1946)
 Raj of Sarawak (1841–1946)
Crown Colony of Labuan (1848–1946)
 British North Borneo (1881–1946)
Japanese Occupation Period (1942–1945)
Occupied Malaya (1942–1945)
Occupied British Borneo (1942–1945)
Si Rat Malai (1943–1945)
Interim Military Period (1945–1946)
Military Administration of Malaya (1945–1946)
Military Administration of Borneo (1945–1946)
Self–Government Period (1946–1963)
 Malayan Union (1946–1948)
 Federation of Malaya (1948–1963)
Crown Colony of North Borneo (1946–1963)
Crown Colony of Sarawak (1946–1963)
Federation Period (1963–present)
 Federation of Malaysia (1963–present)
First Leader Emperor Jimmu (mythical)
Emperor Meiji (de jure)
Abdul Rahman of Negeri Sembilan (Monarch)
Tunku Abdul Rahman (Prime Minister)
Head of State Emperor: Naruhito Monarch: Abdullah
Head of Government Prime Minister: Shinzō Abe Prime Minister: Mahathir Mohamad
Deputy Leader Deputy Prime Minister: Tarō Asō Deputy Prime Minister: Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Legislature National Diet (Bicameral) Parliament (Bicameral)
Upper House House of Councillors
Speaker: Chuichi Date
President: S. Vigneswaran
Lower House House of Representatives
Speaker: Tadamori Ōshima
House of Representatives
Speaker: Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof
Judiciary Supreme Court
Chief Justice: Naoto Ōtani
Federal Court
Chief Justice: Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat
National language Japanese Malaysian
GDP (nominal) $4.841 trillion ($38,281 per capita) $800.169 billion ($25,833 per capita)

Leaders of the two countries (Shōwa period)

Tunku Abdul RahmanAbdul Razak HusseinHussein OnnMahathir MohamadNobusuke KishiHayato IkedaEisaku SatōKakuei TanakaTakeo MikiTakeo FukudaMasayoshi ŌhiraMasayoshi ItoZenkō SuzukiYasuhiro NakasoneNoboru TakeshitaMalaysiaJapan

Leaders of the two countries (Heisei period)

Mahathir MohamadAbdullah Ahmad BadawiNajib RazakMahathir MohamadNoboru TakeshitaSōsuke UnoToshiki KaifuKiichi MiyazawaMorihiro HosokawaTsutomu HataTomiichi MurayamaRyūtarō HashimotoKeizō ObuchiYoshirō MoriJunichirō KoizumiShinzō AbeYasuo FukudaTarō AsōYukio HatoyamaNaoto KanYoshihiko NodaShinzō AbeMalaysiaJapan

Leaders of the two countries (Reiwa period)

Mahathir MohamadShinzō AbeMalaysiaJapan


Maritime trade[edit]

The Sandakan Japanese Cemetery site in Sandakan, Sabah with most of the graves belonged to Japanese women and has existed since before World War II.

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.[4]

World War II[edit]

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.[5] 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[edit]

The "Look East Policy" was an economic policy announced by the fourth and currently seventh 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.[6]

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.[7][8] Since Mahathir return to become the Prime Minister in 2019, he has revived the "Look East" policy and urge more Malaysians to study in Japan while at the same time welcoming any Japanese universities headed by Japanese nationals to open up their branches in Malaysia for Malaysian students who are unable to afford cost to lived in Japan.[9][10]

Economic trade[edit]

Japan's Æon Group shopping mall in Johor, Malaysia.

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.[11]

Japan has increased its import of liquefied natural gas to about 34%. Before 2007, the bilateral rate between both countries were at a deficit.[12] 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.[12]

In 2016, around 413,000 Japanese tourists have visited Malaysia, while 394,000 Malaysian tourists visited Japan.[8] 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.[13] 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.[14]

Official visits[edit]

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.[15] Both Japan and Malaysia are members of East Asia Summit, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation,[16] ASEAN+3 and World Trade Organization.

Security relations[edit]

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.[17] The military vessels, which previously used by the Japan Coast Guard handed to Malaysia to counter Chinese military activities in the waters of Malaysia.[18] On May 2017, Japan seek to give their P-3C patrol planes to Malaysia.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Embassy of Japan in Malaysia". Embassy of Japan in Malaysia. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
     • "Consulate-General of Japan in Penang, Malaysia". Embassy of Japan in Malaysia. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
     • "Consular Office of Japan in Kota Kinabalu". Embassy of Japan in Malaysia. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  2. ^ "Official Website of Embassy of Malaysia, Tokyo". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Japanese Public's Mood Rebounding, Abe Highly Popular". Pew Research Center. 11 July 2013.
  4. ^ Shunzō Sakamaki (May 1964). "Ryukyu and Southeast Asia". The Journal of Asian Studies. Association for Asian Studies, JSTOR. 23 (3): 383–389/383–384. doi:10.2307/2050757. JSTOR 2050757.
  5. ^ Peter N. Stearns; Mary Reilly (2001). "b. Peninsular and Island Southeast Asia". Houghton Mifflin Company. Encyclopedia of World History. Archived from the original on 18 December 2002. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  6. ^ "Dasar Pandang Ke Timur" (in Malay). Department of Information, Malaysia. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  7. ^ "Masa Untuk Pertimbangkan Semula Dasar Pandang Ke Timur, Kata Najib" (in Malay). Bernama. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Malaysia seeks to entice Japanese investors". The Japan Times. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  9. ^ "Mahathir welcomes setting up of Japanese varsities in M'sia". Bernama. Daily Express. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  10. ^ Takashi Nakano (18 August 2019). "Malaysia's 'Look East' revival rekindles student interest in Japan". Nikkei Asian Review. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  11. ^ "Asean set to draw more Japanese investment". My Sinchew. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Malaysia-Japan Bilateral Trade To Continue To Strengthen". Bernama. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
  13. ^ "SMBC deal aims to promote Japanese investment in Malaysia". Nikkei Asian Review. 17 April 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  14. ^ Syahirah Syed Jaafar (5 May 2017). "Malaysia, Japan plan US$3b currency swap". The Edge Markets. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  15. ^ "MOFA: Japan-Malaysia Relations (VIP Visits section)". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  16. ^ "APEC Members". Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  17. ^ "Japan gives Malaysia two patrol boats". Japan Today. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  18. ^ Gaku Shimada (7 September 2016). "Japan to grant patrol boats to Malaysia to counter China". Nikkei Asian Review. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Japan seeks to give patrol planes to Malaysia". Nikkei Asian Review. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.

External links[edit]