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.”


Voting closing in race to become UK’s new prime minister

Updated 22 July 2019
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Voting closing in race to become UK’s new prime minister

  • Members of the governing Conservative Party had until 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to return postal ballots in the contest between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to lead the party

LONDON: Voting was closing Monday in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister, as critics of likely winner Boris Johnson condemned his vow to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a divorce deal.
Members of the governing Conservative Party had until 5 p.m. (1600 GMT) to return postal ballots in the contest between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to lead the party.
The winner will be announced Tuesday, and will take over as the nation’s leader from Prime Minister Theresa May the following day.
Johnson, a populist former mayor of London, is the strong favorite.
Several members of May’s government have said they will resign before they can be fired by Johnson over their opposition to his threat to go through with a no-deal Brexit if he can’t secure a renegotiated settlement with the EU.
Most economists say quitting the 28-nation bloc without a deal would cause Britain economic turmoil. The UK’s official economic watchdog has forecast that a no-deal Brexit would trigger a recession, with the pound plummeting in value, borrowing soaring by 30 billion pounds ($37 billion) and the economy shrinking 2% in a year.
Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday that a no-deal Brexit would be “an act of economic self-harm that runs wholly counter to the national interest.”
EU leaders insist they won’t reopen the 585-page withdrawal agreement they made with May’s government, which has been repeatedly rejected by Britain’s Parliament.
Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan quit Monday, lamenting in his resignation letter that “we have had to spend every day working beneath the dark cloud of Brexit.”
Other government ministers, including Treasury chief Philip Hammond, are set to resign on Wednesday.
The new prime minister will preside over a House of Commons in which most members oppose leaving the EU without a deal, and where the Conservative Party lacks an overall majority.
Opposition parties are preparing for an early election which could be triggered if the government loses a no-confidence vote in the coming months.
The centrist Liberal Democrats, who have seen a surge in support thanks to their strongly anti-Brexit stance, were set to declare the winner of their own leadership contest on Monday.