BY REIJI YOSHIDA, JAPAN TIMES, TOKYO (TNS)
Visiting Malaysian leader Najib Razak met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday in Tokyo, where the pair agreed to push for the early implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Najib told reporters that Abe’s planned meeting with US President-elect Donald Trump in New York on Thursday “is very much awaited by all the TPP countries.”
Najib added he hopes that “the strategic importance of TPP will be recognized by the incoming administration” led by Trump.
Trump repeatedly expressed opposition to the trade pact during the presidential election campaign and congressional leaders have vowed not to advance it after his victory.
During the Abe-Najib meeting, the two leaders also agreed on the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, Abe said during a joint news conference after the meeting.
Any disputes there, he added, should be resolved based on international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The two leaders also attended a signing ceremony for Japan’s grant of two decommissioned patrol vessels to Malaysia’s coast guard agency.
During the meeting, Abe also voiced his hope that Malaysia will introduce Japan’s bullet train technology when it builds its planned 350-km high-speed railway connecting Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
Najib, on the first of a three-day visit to Japan, told reporters that this project seems to be “uppermost in the mind of the government of Japan.”
But during the joint press announcement, Najib said only that an internal bidding process, scheduled to take place in the fourth quarter of 2017, would be conducted in “an open, transparent and objective manner.”
In an earlier written response to questions submitted by Kyodo News, Najib praised Japan’s bullet train technology for its “remarkable safety and on-time service record,” but added that while those are important considerations, “cost efficiency will be the key.”
Early this month, the Malaysian leader returned home from a weeklong visit to China with some 144 billion ringgit ($33.24 billion) worth of rail, defense and other deals, hailing the visit as a “groundbreaking” one that took bilateral ties with Beijing to new heights.
At present, China appears to be the front-runner to clinch the high-speed rail project, but Najib pointed out that South Korea is also in the competition.
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