Japan’s coast guard on Friday completed security exercises to train its Malaysian counterpart on how to repel foreign intrusions in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing has grown increasingly assertive against other claimant states.
The four-day exercise marked the first time Malaysia was trained to use long-range acoustic devices, known as sound cannons, said Saiful Lizan Ibrahim, deputy director of logistics at the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency.
“The drill was conducted to train the officers and members on how to use the device and also test its effectiveness against foreign vessels, especially those that have intruded into the country’s waters,” Saiful said in a statement.
“It should be used to track intruder ships that refuse to cooperate or those that act aggressively against us.”
Long-range acoustic devices are specialized loudspeakers that produce high-powered sounds to communicate over large distances. They are an upgrade from the devices used in Malaysia.
The Japanese government contributed four of the sound cannons to Malaysia. The devices will be mounted on the maritime agency’s offshore patrol boats, Saiful said.
Japanese official Tamura Makoto told Tokyo public broadcaster NHK that his country would continue to work with Southeast Asian counterparts.
“Southeast Asia has sea routes vital to Japan. We will continue to support nations in the region so that they can better ensure maritime security,” he said in a report published on Friday.
Unlike Malaysia, Japan is not a direct party in the South China Sea dispute with China, but is an interested stakeholder.
“Japan’s first interest in the South China Sea is to ensure that international trade passes smoothly through the region,” says a paper written in October by HDP Envall of the Australian National University, which is Alessio Patalano’s book “Japan as a Maritime Power ” quoted.
“About 80% of Japan’s energy imports travel through the South China Sea and much of its trade as well,” the paper said.
Japan is locked in its own dispute with China in the East China Sea, particularly over the Senkaku Islands.
As for the South China Sea, Beijing claims almost everything, including waters in the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. While Indonesia does not consider itself a party to the dispute, Beijing claims historical rights to parts of the sea that also overlap Indonesia’s EEZ.
Meanwhile, Beijing ignored a 2016 international arbitration ruling won by Manila that invalidated China’s major claims in the South China Sea.
According to the Malaysian government’s audit report published in 2020, the latest available, Chinese coast guard and navy ships have entered Malaysian waters in the South China Sea 89 times between 2016 and 2019. the Malaysian Navy.
Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia have accused China of interfering with their oil and gas exploration activities with frequent incursions by Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels, resulting in confrontations and incidents.
All such activities of Beijing are “from Japan’s perspective as part of a single strategy by China intended to weaken the territorial claims and control of other states in the region and establish their own control,” says the paper by Envall of the ANU.
“Japan also faces similar gray zone tactics — attempts at coercion that fall just short of what is considered an ‘armed attack’ — in the East China Sea,” the paper says.
As with Malaysia, Japan is also strengthening ties with South China Sea claimants, the Philippines in the Indonesia.
China will watch’Exercises with mistrust’
Malaysia’s coast guard lacks maritime patrol, emergency and enforcement resources, so it has received help from various partners, including Japan and Australia, said Hoo Chiew Ping, senior lecturer in strategic studies and international relations at Universiti Kebangsaan.
“Thus, the acoustic devices provided by Japan will increase the MMEA’s detection capability and provide a warning system for our fishermen to reduce the risks of maritime clash or confrontation with foreign vessels in our waters,” she told BenarNews .
The exercises with Japan will definitely invite China’s suspicion, said Shahriman Lockman, director of Malaysia’s Institute for Strategic and International Studies.
“China would naturally view such exercises with suspicion. They will undoubtedly express their disappointment, even if unofficially, to Malaysian government officials. This is only to be expected,” Lockman told BenarNews.
“At the same time, China certainly needs to understand at some level that Malaysia needs to build the capacity to defend itself.”
Lockman noted that China has a persistent presence in Malaysia’s EEZ in the South China Sea.
“Periodically, a China Coast Guard vessel will convey China’s objections to Malaysia’s oil and gas activities in the Luconia Shoals area, particularly the Kasawari gas development project,” he said.
“The presence of China has become the new normal and is usually estimated by Malaysian government officials. There are occasional tensions, but these seem to be moderate and under control.