Malaysia’s Strategic Geographic location is very important for the Asia-Pacific Nations, said a top Japanese Government Official.

The official, who spoke in strict confidence, said Malaysia provided an important maritime passageway via the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea, two key channels to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

“Not only that, Malaysia’s tactical approach using defence diplomacy in resolving territorial disputes in the region has augured favourably towards maintaining peace and stability.

“This has greatly eased the propagation of freedom of navigation of military and commercial vessels plying the area.

“Japan itself ships 80 per cent of its oil and gas imports via these waterways successfully, unimpeded without much ado,” he said.

Owing to this, he added, Japan was bent on playing its responsible role in ensuring that stakeholders adhered to the legitimate rules and regulations concerning the sea.

“If need be, Japan is prepared to assist troubled nations like Malaysia and its Asean members, from being ‘bullied’ by larger and more powerful nations.

“This is especially so in light of territorial disputes arising from claims over islands, reefs and shoals around the Paracels and Spratlys in the South China Sea,” he said.

Although he did not wish to point fingers, it was an open secret that he was referring to China which had laid its claims within the ‘nine-dash line’ that stretches as far as off Bintulu in Sarawak and also encompasses Indonesia’s Natuna islands off Kalimantan.

Likewise, Japan is also embroiled in a dispute with China over the previously uninhabited Senkaku islands, north-east of Taiwan and just west of Okinawa.

The official was grateful to Taiwan’s non-interference despite its proximity to Senkaku but puzzled at China’s over-zealous attempt.

“Just like how we are endeavouring to firmly protect what rightfully belongs to us in accordance with international law, Japan is also committed to support ASEAN Nations to protect their sovereignty without jeopardising security or breaching the code of conduct.

“We are not saying that we intend to go to war with the dissenting nations, but want to assert our rights the same way such nations want to lay claims over what they believe is theirs,” he said.

Japan is also involved in a stand-off with Russia over the Kurille islands that stretch between the Japanese island of Hokkaido at the southern end and the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula at the northern end.

Tensions in the South and North China Seas have heightened in recent decades following China’s renewed efforts to use its military might by deploying naval vessels and even occupying the disputed territories, owing to discoveries of rich natural resources there.

China’s manoeuvres had irked not only ASEAN nations and Japan but also the United States, which has a large naval presence in the Pacific Ocean.

“We understand China’s ambitious plans as a great global player to expand its influence from the continental north-to-the-south via its Belt & Road Initiative across 70 Nations to improve their Infrastructure.

“Likewise, Japan has its east-to-west economic initiative to promote and share its prosperity,” he summed up.