Why Japan's crown prince holds up Malaysia as a 'model for the international society'

'Diversity and tolerance are the words that come to my mind in describing my image of Malaysia today,' he said in a rare news conference.

Issei Kato/Reuters
Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito (r.) and and his wife Crown Princess Masako wave as they send off Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko boarding a special flight for their visit to Vietnam and Thailand, at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan February 28, 2017.

Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito said Tuesday that he believes Malaysia's success is based on its diversity and tolerance, and the country can be a model for a world faced with conflicts.

Naruhito, the oldest son of Emperor Akihito, is first in line to the Chrysanthemum throne. Ahead of his visit to Malaysia beginning later this week, he said at a rare news conference at his palace that he looks forward to learning from the country's experience in using its ethnic, religious and cultural diversity as a source for development.

"Diversity and tolerance are the words that come to my mind in describing my image of Malaysia today," he said. The country has generated energy and unity as a nation while the people of Malay, Chinese, and Indian roots have come to respect each other's differences and coexisted, he said.

"I would like to observe and hear from the people of Malaysia from the viewpoint that Malaysia's example can be a model for the international society, which is still faced with conflicts for various reasons, in terms of how a world can be," the soft-spoken Naruhito said.

This vote of confidence in Malaysia's democracy comes amid a massive, months-long corruption scandal involving the country's sovereign wealth fund, and its prime minister, Najib Razak. Last November, The Christian Science Monitor reported that protests demanding Mr. Razak's resignation were met with government crackdowns.

Despite these challenges, Naruhito said that Malaysia's contribution to regional cooperation, especially through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is also an important asset for the rest of Asia and the world.

Naruhito, the father of only daughter, Princess Aiko, 15, said he hoped exchanges and activities during his visit would foster friendship and understanding between the two peoples, especially the young generations.

During his four-day trip to Malaysia, Naruhito is scheduled to attend a state banquet hosted by British-educated Sultan Muhammad V, meet with Prime Minister Najib Razak, as well as Malaysian students and Japanese residents.

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