3.11.16

Malaysia Pivots to China

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit to China this week comes as the embattled leader’s relationship with the United States has been tested by the Department of Justice’s investigation into the scandal swirling around the 1MDB state investment fund he founded. But despite the tension and Najib’s move to align the country closer with Beijing, there is one area where the U.S.-Malaysia relationship remains strong, experts say. “The 1MDB investigation is going ahead, but it hasn’t affected U.S.-Malaysia cooperation on the counterterrorism front,” Phuong Nguyen, an associate fellow with the Southeast Asia Program at CSIS, said. Najib — who this week called China a “true friend and strategic partner”— has increasingly looked to China due to the strained ties with Washington over the 1MDB scandal and because China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner. On Tuesday, the two countries inked a deal to boost naval cooperation concerning the disputed South China Sea, and on Thursday Najib is set to meet President Xi Jinping. As Beijing and Washington continue to make their plays for influence in the region, Malaysia’s turn to China throws another damper on President Barack Obama’s stated pivot to Asia. But in the counterterrorism realm, the United States and Malaysia are working to maintain their close ties and relationship, a number of observers recently told The Cipher Brief. The U.S. values having a Muslim majority country like Malaysia as a key partner in the region and as a member of the U.S.-led counter-ISIS coalition.

Read more:  https://www.thecipherbrief.com/article/exclusive/asia/malaysia-pivots-china-us-counterterrorism-ties-stay-strong-1089

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