Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has concluded his working visit to Japan with a slew of potential bilateral deals, following three days of meetings with top government officials and business leaders.
Mahathir’s third visit to Japan since assuming office for the second time came to an end on Wednesday (Nov 7). His previous trips were in June and August.
Here’s what happened during the three-day visit:
Malaysia might partner Softbank to boost investment in artificial intelligence
Following a meeting with Softbank founder Masayoshi Son, Mahathir said Malaysia is looking to partner the investment company to boost the economy and improve the nation’s finances, Bernama reported.
The premier plans for Malaysia to become a top destination for the high-tech industry by 2025, according to The Star.
Among the possibilities discussed were for Softbank-funded tech companies to set up offices in Malaysia, giving the country access to new technologies and boosting the number of higher-paying jobs. Softbank invests in artificial intelligence and technology companies worldwide, including Alibaba and Uber.
The Government might also tweak school curriculum to include topics like AI and robotics, The Star reported.
Japan Railways (JR) may help study how to improve Malaysian railways
In his dialogue with Japanese president Shinzo Abe, Mahathir brought up Malaysia’s request for the JR Kyushu Railway Company to help study how Malaysia’s railways can be improved in areas like cargo delivery, Bernama reported.
Japanese railways were suffering losses under the government until they were privatised – particularly JR Kyushu Railway, Mahathir was quoted as saying in the report.
He added that 70 per cent of Malaysia’s train services are “unused potential railways”, and the country was looking to find a system to transport large containers by train, instead of on roads.
According to the report, experts from the JR Kyushu Railway will visit Malaysia at the end of this month.
Malaysia may buy low-interest Japanese bonds to help reduce national debt
Japan has offered to guarantee Malaysia 200 billion yen (RM7.4 billion) Samurai bonds with a 10-year tenure at an indicative coupon rate of 0.65 per cent, the Straits Times reported.
These loans are to be guaranteed by Japan Bank of International Cooperation and expected to be issued before March next year, Bernama reported.
According to a separate Bernama report, Mahathir said these bonds would be used to retire some of the costly loans taken by the previous government. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the offer was Japan’s vote of confidence in Mahathir’s leadership, the report added.
There might be Japanese university branches in Malaysia as soon as next year
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan has agreed to “start a thorough consultation” on the topic of setting up Japanese university branches in Malaysia, Bernama reported.
Malaysia’s Education Minister, Dr Maszlee Malik, said three Japanese higher-learning institutions – Tsukuba University, Nippon Designers School and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University – have plans to establish branches in Malaysia, according to The Star. Nippon Designers School could start operating as early as next year.
Mahathir scored a major award and an honorary doctorate
For his contributions to strengthening bilateral ties, Mahathir was conferred Japan’s highest award for foreign statesmen, the ‘Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers’, by Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace, Bernama reported.
Previous recipients include former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.
A second Bernama report said Mahathir was also conferred an Honorary Doctorate from Tsukuba University by university president Prof Kyosuke Nagata.