Malaysian leader says ‘Look East’ policy includes China

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said his country, which has long looked to Japan and South Korea as models for economic development, is now interested in learning from China.

Anwar told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Tokyo on Dec. 17, “We need to be willing to review the policies that have been in place for 40 years.”

He was referring to the Look East policy that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad adopted in the 1980s to learn economic modernization strategies primarily from Japan and South Korea.

“I don’t think ‘East’ (in this policy) means Japan and South Korea minus China,” Anwar said. “Now, when we say ‘Look East,’ we mean the East (including China).”

Mr Anwar said that as digital technology, cybersecurity and other issues are changing the world, Malaysia needs to expand on decades-old policies while still continuing the beneficial aspects.

Mr. Anwar described Japan as a “very important strategic partner.”

He said relations between Malaysia and Japan should be expanded under the Look East policy, including sharing Japanese work ethics and technology.

Mr. Anwar was in Japan to attend a summit meeting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of friendship and cooperation between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Malaysia has advocated a “robustly independent” foreign policy, and Anwar said it would deal with China according to Malaysia’s interests.

Mr. Anwar said that during his visit to the United States, he was asked why Malaysia was leaning towards China.

He replied, “Because they’re investing more.”

However, Anwar said Malaysia will firmly negotiate with China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and will not tolerate any unilateral action by Beijing.

Japan announced on December 16 that it would provide the Malaysian military with equipment for surveillance and surveillance operations, including rescue boats and drones, worth 400 million yen ($2.82 million) under the Public Security Assistance Program.

Anwar stressed that the defense equipment is designed to help protect Malaysia’s territorial waters and does not include submarines or large aircraft.

“(The assistance) is primarily for our own security needs and not for offensive or offensive measures,” he said.

(Makoto Igarashi and Naoko Handa wrote this article. Staff reporter Rizki Akbar Hasan contributed to this report.)

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