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

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.”


Sanders attacked for past praise of communist regimes

Updated 6 min 12 sec ago

Sanders attacked for past praise of communist regimes

  • Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg all seized on visits Sanders made to the USSR, the Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua and Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1980s
  • Joe Biden: He (Sanders) seems to have found more inspiration in the Soviets, Sandinistas, Chavistas, and Castro than in America

WASHINGTON: Bernie Sanders’ past praise of communist regimes like Cuba and the Soviet Union has come back to haunt him, his rivals for the Democratic White House nomination seeking to paint the frontrunner as a friend of left-wing dictators.
Fellow Democratic hopefuls Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg and Pete Buttigieg all seized on visits Sanders made to the USSR, the Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua and Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the 1980s as evidence he is a threat to the US democratic and capitalist system.
Sanders, who describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” was pressed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program on Sunday about positive comments he made three decades ago about communist states, particularly his statement that Castro had vastly improved education and health care in Cuba.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad,” the 78-year-old politician said.
“When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?“
Biden, who Sanders has edged out as the 2020 Democratic frontrunner, fired back:
“Make no mistake: Bernie Sanders’ comments on Fidel Castro are a part of a larger pattern throughout his life to embrace autocratic leaders and governments across the globe,” the centrist former vice president said in a statement.
“He seems to have found more inspiration in the Soviets, Sandinistas, Chavistas, and Castro than in America.”
Buttigieg compared Sanders to President Donald Trump who he said has “cozied up to dictators,” adding the country needs a leader “who will be extremely clear in standing against regimes that violate human rights abroad.”
With Sanders in pole position heading into South Carolina’s primary this weekend, the controversy offers his rivals a precious chance to halt his momentum when they clash on the debate stage later on Tuesday.
Sanders’ alignment with the far left in US politics has always left him vulnerable to attack; Trump and other Republicans have branded him a “communist.”
But his Cuba comments have come to the forefront in the fight for voter support in Florida, home to a large Cuban-American population strongly opposed to Castro’s regime and holding substantial political sway in the southern state.
Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, targeted that electorate as he tweeted that Castro “left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads, and the murder of thousands of his own people.”
“But sure, Bernie, let’s talk about his literacy program,” Bloomberg said.
Sanders’ denies any support for dictators. Critics say his record suggests otherwise.
As mayor of the small city of Burlington, Vermont, he visited Nicaragua in 1985 and afterward hailed Daniel Ortega’s revolution against the Central American country’s landowner elite.
That was a view commonly held among the American left, especially as the administration of Ronald Reagan supported the right-wing Nicaraguan Contra fighters accused of numerous terror-like atrocities.
In 1988 Sanders visited Russia seeking to establish a sister-city pact with Yaroslavl, northeast of Moscow.
It was hardly unique: there were several dozen US-USSR sister city relationships at the time, according to Sister Cities International.
Upon his return, Sanders applauded Russian gains in health care, while adding they were 10 years behind the United States.
He said his hosts were friendly and spoke honestly about problems, especially in housing and struggling industries.
He offered no praise of the government and communist system, and noted Russians very much liked Reagan, who had just days earlier held a summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which Sanders called “a major step forward for humanity.”
Likewise after visiting Cuba in 1989, Sanders praised its achievements in education and health care, calling Castro’s revolution “profound,” but also noting the lack of political freedoms.
“The question is how you bring both economic and political freedom together in one society,” he said at the time, according to the Rutland Daily Herald.
Sanders’ position echoes that of president Barack Obama, who reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015, with Biden as his vice president.
Obama said on a landmark 2016 Havana visit that the government “should be congratulated” for its achievements in education and health care — while criticizing its human rights violations and communist-rooted economy which he said was “not working.”
Sanders told “60 Minutes” that his support for certain achievements in communist countries did not make him a friend of repressive leaders.
“I don’t trade love letters with a murdering dictator,” he said, referring to Trump’s friendship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
Whether that carries with Cuban voters in Florida remains an open question.