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Tuesday, 19 June 2018 | MYT 9:55 PM

Trump may visit Malaysia after Asean summit in November

KUALA LUMPUR: The United States is exploring the possibility of President Donald Trump visiting  Malaysia after the 33rd Asean summit in November. 

White House National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matthew Pottinger, who is the first Trump administrator to visit Malaysia since the historic GE14, told this to the media during a round-table here on Tuesday. 

“Trump looks forward to deepening our comprehensive partnership with Malaysia,” said Pottinger. 

“We’ve got of course the Asean summit coming up later this year, so we’re exploring the possibilities right now for the President’s follow on travel in November,” he added. 

The 33rd Asean summit is scheduled to be held from Nov 11 to 15 in Singapore. 

“I had the pleasure of conveying a letter to the Government today (June 19) from Trump, congratulating Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the coalition that he led and his electoral victory, and also congratulating the Malaysian people,” Pottinger said. 

Dr Mahathir had previously said that he has no plans to meet Trump, adding that he does not know how to deal with such a “volatile” person. 

The new Prime Minister’s stance is world’s apart from his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who sought a close relationship with Trump, even travelling to the White House to discuss bilateral ties. 

When asked whether Dr Mahathir’s negative view of Trump would sour ties between the two countries, Pottinger said they “look forward to engaging and deepening the bilateral relationships at all levels of government”.

On the South China Sea dispute, Pottinger said the US and its partners will continue responding to China’s militarisation of the South China Sea. 

He said the disputed South China Sea is part of the maritime commons and expressed disappointment with  China’s actions. 

On May 27, the Chinese military dispatched warships to confront two US Navy vessels within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands that China had claimed. 

“The United States and its partners will all be taking steps in the near and long term to respond to that militarisation,” Pottinger said. 

“Those kind of steps should be viewed as stabilising the situation and not as provocation,” he added. 

Dr Mahathir had said he does not want any foreign warships in the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. 

He subsequently signed an agreement with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to keep both seas free for navigation to all countries. 

Pottinger’s visit to Malaysia comes after the Singapore summit where Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.