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Politics

Japan to grant patrol boats to Malaysia to counter China

VIENTIANE -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will promise to give Malaysia patrol boats during Wednesday's leaders summit between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos.

The military vessels, which will come previously used by the Japan Coast Guard, are expected to be handed over free of charge to Malaysia during the first half of 2017. Japan will also provide backing for coast guard training, as well as boat repairs and support for necessary communications equipment.

The Southeast Asian nation is locked in a territorial dispute with China over waters in the South China Sea. Tokyo and the Malaysian government are negotiating a pact in which Japan will transfer military hardware and provide technical support.

This move follow's Tuesday's agreement to provide the Philippines with two large patrol vessels. Japan has already supplied patrol boats and other vessels to the Philippines in 2013 and Vietnam in 2014 -- two countries that are also at odds with China over the South China Sea.

One reason China has been able to engage in provocative activities in those disputed waters is the meager capacity of other nations in the region to protect their shores. Abe seeks to check China's expansionary aims by helping boost the naval capabilities of nations like Malaysia. Tokyo is also looking to pull those nations away from China through that support.

During Wednesday's leaders meeting, Abe will once again appeal for a peaceful resolution to the tensions based on the rule of law. He seeks to form a united front with ASEAN nations against China, whose territorial claims in the South China Sea were rejected by an international arbitration court. 

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