Malaysia PM Mahathir receives one of Japan’s highest awards for strengthening relations

TOKYO: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was on Tuesday (Nov 6) conferred one of Japan’s highest awards for his contributions in strengthening bilateral ties.

Japan’s Emperor Akihito presented the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flower to Mahathir at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The award is traditionally conferred on politicians, former prime ministers, ministers, diplomats and judges.

Mahathir, 93, is the third leader from Asia to receive the prestigious award, after Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Mahathir received Japan's highest award
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (centre) poses for a photo with his wife Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali and Peter Piot of Belgium, a microbiologist who co-discovered Ebola in 1976, after receiving the Grand Cordon of the Order of Paulownia Flowers during a decoration ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Nov 6, 2018. (Photo: AFP / Toshifumi KITAMURA)

The award ceremony on Tuesday is expected to be the last conducted by Emperor Akihito before he abdicates on Apr 30, 2019.

Mahathir is on the second day of his three-day working visit to Japan.

After the ceremony, he sat down for talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. The pair reportedly discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, as well as various investments and regional issues.

Mahathir meets Shinzo Abe
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) during their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on Nov 6, 2018. (Photo: AFP / POOL / ISSEI KATO)

Mahathir also expressed his gratitude to Abe’s government for helping to ease Malaysia’s financial woes.

Japan had offered to guarantee 200 billion yen (US$1.75 billion) worth of Samurai bonds with a 10-year tenure. The yen-denominated bonds, to be guaranteed by the Japan Bank of International Cooperation at an indicative coupon rate of 0.65 per cent, are expected to be issued before March next year.

Mahathir had said that the bonds would be used to retire some of the costly loans taken by the previous government.

“Prime Minister Abe also assured us that if in future there is a need to seek Japanese support in solving our financial problems, he is ready and the Japanese government is ready to consider,” Mahathir said during a joint press conference with Abe on Tuesday.