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Malaysia boosts its regional defense cooperation
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (UPI) Nov 1, 2013

Japan, Russia hold first diplomatic-defence talks
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 02, 2013 - The foreign and defence ministers of Japan and Russia agreed Saturday to cooperate in fighting terrorism and piracy as the neighbours, still at odds over territorial woes, held an unprecedented security dialogue.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera held a so-called "2+2" meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at the government's guest house in Tokyo.

It was the first such diplomatic-defence talks between the two countries, which remain at odds over the sovereignty of a cluster of windswept islands to Japan's north and Russia's far east.

During the one-day meeting, the two sides agreed to carry out joint drills between Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force and the Russian Navy designed to combat terrorists and pirates, the ministers said.

They also agreed to launch "Japan-Russia cyber-security talks" while stepping up other security and defence talks, including ministerial meetings, their joint statement said.

"We got off to a good start by turning to a new chapter of the Japanese and Russian relationship," Kishida told a joint news conference.

"Pushing for cooperation in the security sector will help enhance the entire relationship between Japan and Russia, which will have a good impact on negotiations on signing a peace treaty," he said.

Despite an important commercial relationship that is now much influenced by Japan's need to buy fossil fuels and Russia's desire to sell them, the two neighbours have failed to sign a peace treaty due to their territorial dispute.

The islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, but Russia administers as the Southern Kurils, were seized by Soviet troops as World War II thundered to a close.

Lavrov said Saturday's meeting also covered regional concerns, including the Korean peninsula issue, territorial disputes, drug trafficking and borderless crimes.

"We confirmed that our close cooperation in settling these issues will meet the interest of the two countries," the Russian foreign minister said.

But Kishida stressed that their bilateral dialogue did not intend to single out one particular issue or a country, adding the Japan-US security alliance is still the cornerstone of Tokyo's diplomacy.

Four separate meetings have taken place between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past six months, an unusual frequency for such high-level exchanges.

The affable tone stands in marked contrast to the the state of relations between Japan and China.

Asia's two largest economies are at diplomatic loggerheads over the sovereignty of a chain of islands in the East China Sea. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe have not met for a formal sit-down since either came to power.

Malaysia will work more closely with Vietnam to prevent naval misunderstandings on the high seas turning into military confrontation, state news agency Bernama reported.

The two countries will explore setting up a "direct connection" communication link between Malaysian Maritime Region 1 Base in Kuantan, Pahang, and Vietnam's Southern Command.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein made the announcement after discussions with his Vietnamese counterpart, Gen. Phung Quang Thanh, in Hanoi this week.

Hishammuddin said a direct link would enable the two countries to contact each other in case of problems at sea during military operations and exercises, Bernama reported.

"I also conveyed our intention for Malaysia and Vietnam to cooperate to make the Association of Southeast Asian Nation Defense Industry Collaboration a reality," he said.

"It is to increase defense industrial inter-dependence among ASEAN members, so that we will not depend on sourcing outside ASEAN."

Hishammuddin and Thanh also agreed to hold annual meetings of senior military and defense staff, exchange personnel for training and conduct joint military exercises, Bernama reported. Malaysia and Vietnam have had a defense cooperation pact since 2008.

The announcement of closer cooperation with Vietnam comes after Hishammuddin's three-day trip to Beijing where he agreed to start joint military exercises with China beginning next year," the New Straits Times reported.

Hishammuddin said the exercises -- for the army, navy and air force -- are part of a range of joint working groups.

"Both sides have agreed to foster greater cooperation in defense, particularly in holding joint exercises, exchange of military personnel, establishing cooperation in the defense industry and fighting terrorism and transnational crime," he said.

Hishammuddin met with several of China's top leaders, including Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Gen. Fan Changlong. His visits to Vietnam and China were the first since he became Defense Minister in May.

Malaysia officially established military cooperation with China in 2005, but the result has been only exchanges of visits.

Hishammuddin's trip to Beijing was after the state visit of China's President Xi Jinping to Malaysia in early October.

Malaysia's agreements with Vietnam and China are amid increasing tension from overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Malaysia and Vietnam are involved in the multinational claims -- with China, Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei -- over some of the Spratly Islands, which Vietnam claims is entirely Vietnamese territory.

None of the islands has an indigenous population, but Malaysia, Vietnam and China individually occupy or manage some of the territory's islands, coral reefs and shoals.

Vietnam sent several Buddhist monks to perform religious rituals in previously abandoned temples on several of the islands in March 2012.

The Spratly dispute has erupted into open military confrontation on occasions. About 70 Vietnamese military personnel were killed during the brief 1988 Johnson South Reef skirmish with China.

Vietnam and China also have competing claims on the nearby Paracel Islands, where China's arrest of Vietnamese fishermen in 2012 set off a war of words concerning ownership.


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Japan, Russia hold first diplomatic-defence talks
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 02, 2013
The foreign and defence ministers of Japan and Russia agreed Saturday to cooperate in fighting terrorism and piracy as the neighbours, still at odds over territorial woes, held an unprecedented security dialogue. Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera held a so-called "2+2" meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei ... read more

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