Don’t pander to China, Pompeo tells Malaysia PM

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from right, shakes hands with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad during a meeting at Prime Minister Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Malaysia Information Ministry via AP)
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In this photo released by Malaysia Information Ministry, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from right, shakes hands with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad during a meeting at Prime Minister Office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. (Malaysia Information Ministry via AP)
Updated 03 August 2018
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Don’t pander to China, Pompeo tells Malaysia PM

  • Mahathir is widely seen as the region’s senior statesman.
  • The US government had been close to the previous Najib Razak government.

KUALA LUMPUR: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended his two-day visit to Malaysia on Friday after meetings with the Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir to promote Trump’s Indo-Pacific vision and discuss regional issues, including the rise of China.
Pompeo will head to Singapore for ASEAN regional meetings.
The secretary of state’s visit was the first from the US government since a new government under Pakatan Harapan (PH) was formed last May.
The visit is seen as a move by the US government to rekindle its relations with Malaysia under the new leadership.
Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at Tasmania University in Australia, told Arab News that it is normal for the US to visit any new administration. In Malaysia’s case, Mahathir is widely seen as the region’s senior statesman.
Dr. Felix Tan, associate lecturer with SIM Global Education, said that the visit demonstrated the US commitment to the new PH government.
“This will boost the PH’s government in the years ahead,” he said.
Pompeo’s visit has also showcased a more mellow and experienced Mahathir, whose was known for his firebrand leadership during his time as prime minister a few decades ago.
“Dr. M. seems ready to have a cordial relationship with the US, one that is less acrimonious than when he previously served as prime minister,” Dr. Ian Chong, Associate Professor of Political Science at National University of Singapore, said.
“Washington wants to show that it is interested in Malaysia, its process of democratization, and that there is no need to pander to China.”
However, Chin said: “Mahathir is not pro-Trump. He has said many times that he has no idea how to deal with Trump since Trump is so unpredictable.”
The US government had been close to the previous Najib Razak government, currently embroiled in the 1MDB billion-dollar corruption scandal.
Pompeo and Mahathir discussed issues affecting the region, including China’s rise and tension in the South China Sea.
While the Philippines and Vietnam have been vocal on their respective claimed territories in the South China Sea, Malaysia has remained neutral regarding the conflict.
With China’s rise, the US presence is seen as a balancing act in the region that has become a test of power between the two economic giants.
Following on from Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” vision, Trump’s Indo-Pacific vision aims to promote “transparent, private sector-led investment.”
However, US officials claimed the strategy does not compete directly with China’s vast “Belt and Road” initiative.
“Both policies are to contain China and China’s rise,” said Chin, adding that the US wants to ensure Malaysia remains neutral on China and South China Sea.
“The Indo-Pacific vision is far less institutionalized than the Obama administration’s rebalance. It is also more vague and focuses more on major powers rather than the range of actors present in Asia,” Chong said.
“The US is sending the message that it will not abandon its Southeast Asian allies,” said Tan.
“China is a growing superpower and its economic dominance in this region is growing. I don’t think the impact of such visits will be great.”


UN counterterrorism chief makes controversial trip to Xinjiang

Updated 22 min 15 sec ago
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UN counterterrorism chief makes controversial trip to Xinjiang

  • Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov traveled to Beijing and Xinjiang from Thursday to Saturday last week
  • The officials exchanged views on international counterterrorism efforts and reached “broad consensus”

BEIJING: The UN counterterrorism chief visited Xinjiang last week despite protests from the US and a rights group that the trip would be inappropriate in light of the human rights conditions in China’s far west region.
Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov traveled to Beijing and Xinjiang from Thursday to Saturday last week, said a statement Sunday from the Chinese foreign ministry. Voronkov and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng exchanged views on international counterterrorism efforts and reached “broad consensus,” the statement said.
The US, researchers and rights groups estimate that as many as 1 million ethnic Muslims may be arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang, home to the Uighur and Kazakh minority groups.
Former detainees have told The Associated Press that they were held without charge in “reeducation centers” where they were forced to denounce their faith and pledge loyalty to the ruling Communist Party. The Chinese government denies there is widespread abuse in these centers, which it says are vocational training schools aimed at combatting extremism and helping Xinjiang residents gain employable skills.
In a conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan conveyed “deep concerns” about Voronkov’s visit.
“Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not,” Sullivan said, adding that Voronkov was putting the UN’s reputation and credibility at risk “by lending credence to these false claims.”
Human Rights Watch said Friday the UN should have sent a human rights expert instead of a counterterrorism official.
China’s foreign ministry did not provide details of Voronkov’s trip to Xinjiang.
“Counterterrorism cannot be linked to specific countries, ethnic groups and religions,” the ministry said in its Sunday statement. “It cannot adopt ‘double standards.’ China supports the UN in playing a central coordination role in international counterterrorism affairs.”