A Remarkable Relationship at 50

A Remarkable Relationship at 50
12 December 2023 -

The leaders of the ASEAN members and Japan will convene in Tokyo on December 16 to 18 for the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. Dialogue between ASEAN and Japan gained important momentum in 1973, when Japan and ASEAN agreed to establish a forum on Japanese exports of synthetic rubber. That forum was a framework for fortifying the ASEAN members’ natural rubber business amid growing demand for synthetic rubber. It presaged what has become extensive ASEAN-Japan cooperation in advancing mutual interests through a remarkable relationship.

The value of ASEAN-Japan cooperation is especially compelling in upgrading functions strategically important to national vitality. Infusing security, administrative, regulatory, and supervisory functions with global best practice is yielding tangible benefits for all 10 ASEAN members.

Bolstering Maritime Safety

We tend to take for granted the availability of imported necessities, such as oil, and amenities, such as fine wine. Rarely, however, do we recognize the role in ensuring that availability of Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) operators. Those unappreciated individuals work 24–7 at monitoring ship traffic into and out of our harbors. Japan boasts leading-edge technology and personnel for ensuring reliable VTS. And Japan has shared its VTS strengths with ASEAN counterparts since 2017 through a first-of-its-kind training centre in Malaysia.

“What the trainees learn at our center serves them well throughout their careers,” emphasizes Nordin Bin Mohamadin, a deputy director general for planning at the Malaysia Marine Department. “That includes work beyond VTS. The trainees acquire expertise in traffic management, safety of navigation, and rules of the road that is essential for marine officers in managing ports and waterways.”

The centre was born of a shared interest in what Bin Mohamadin characterizes as “ensuring safety from the port of departure to the port of arrival.” ASEAN and Japanese representatives decided on the Malaysian site after considering multiple options. The Malacca Strait, a jugular vein for global trade, unfolds between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Siting the VTS training centre in one of those three ASEAN members was therefore a natural choice. Malaysia’s government was especially proactive about the undertaking, and it provided an in-service training facility to house the centre. The initiative receives funding through Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund 2.0 (JAIF 2.0) under the ASEAN-Japan Transport Partnership.