Pace Promotes Future Cooperation with Malaysia
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, June 4, 2007 The United States and Malaysia have had “a long, very strong and prosperous relationship,” Marine Gen. Peter Pace said here today, noting that Malaysia is the United States’ 10th largest trade partner.
Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he came to Malaysia to “listen and learn how the two nations’ militaries can work together in the future.” He met with Prime Minister Abdullah bin Amad Badawi in Putrajaya, the new federal government center a half hour’s drive from the capital. He also met with senior defense officials at the Ministry of Defense to discuss U.S.-Malaysia relations.
Pace arrived here yesterday after attending the Institute for Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Conference in Singapore. Shortly after arriving, Pace visited the capital city’s Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest freestanding twin towers at 451.9 meters, and toured the Islamic Arts Museum.
Today, Pace discussed security issues with of Defense Minister Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak and Chief of Defense Gen. Abdul Aziz Zainal before addressing about 200 students at the Malaysia Armed Forces Staff College. Military officials said the audience included students from 37 armed services from 29 countries.
The hour-long event was closed to the media, but at a luncheon afterwards, students said they found Pace to be “very open and direct” in answering their questions about regional and global security issues. The students also said they would like to see more U.S. senior leaders visit the moderate Islamic country.
Malaysian military officials briefed the chairman on their plans to establish a joint forces headquarters. Pace invited the senior officers to visit the Pentagon to meet with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to share the U.S. experience of setting up a joint headquarters.
During a joint news conference with Aziz at the Ministry of Defense, Pace responded to local reporters’ questions on Malaysia’s role in peacekeeping and countering piracy, Iraq, China, and the war on terrorism.
In response to a query on the day’s talks on military cooperation, Pace said: “Malaysia has been a world leader in peacekeeping operations for many years.
“As we sit here now, there are 10 or so peacekeeping operations Malaysia is involved in,” he said. “Malaysia also has a world-class peacekeeping center here that is available to your friends and neighbors. Peacekeeping is certainly an area where we’d like to continue to facilitate cooperation.”
As a result of the “terrific cooperation” between Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, he said, piracy in the Strait of Malacca has dropped drastically. “We’re eager to continue to provide whatever information we can to assist in those kinds of activities.”
“We’re eager to find ways we can cooperate, that we can learn from each other, and that we can assist the region and the United States in being good partners and friends in a way that can help all the countries,” Pace said.
In terms of military-to-military ties, Aziz said, the U.S.-Malaysian relationship has been strong. “In terms of enhancing security, our objective is the same: maintaining and ensuring peace in this part of the world. We always consider the United States as the security provider.”
Asked about a recent International Herald Tribune article saying that the United States is considering using Korea as a model for Iraq, Pace said he had not had a chance to read the report. He said that he had, however, participated in very open discussions with Iraqi government officials in Washington.
“Clearly, as a sovereign nation, Iraq will determine who it wants to invite to be guests in their country for the long term,” he said.
Pace said that he’d heard discussion about the Korea model, where the Iraqi government officials would determine the kind of long-term assistance they would like to have and then the two governments determining together how best to meet those requirements by having some U.S. forces present in the country. “Again, that would be after a thorough dialogue with respect to Iraq’s sovereignty,” the chairman said.
Asked about the U.S. military buildup on Guam, Pace said the island has been “a strategic location for the United States and for our support for our friends in the region” for many years.
Pace said he is delighted that U.S. officials and the government of Japan have come to an agreement that will reduce the number of U.S. Marines in Okinawa and move them to U.S. territory on Guam.
“This is just a continuation on American soil of the U.S. commitment to this region in a way that will signal to our friends that we are here as a Pacific nation and that we intend to remain here as a Pacific nation,” he said.
“This part of the world is vital to the prosperity of the United States and, collectively, we can do things that will provide for dependable security for all the nations in the region so they can continue to trade with each other and prosper,” he said.
Regarding threats in the region, the chairman told reporters that a threat is based on capacity and intent. “I don’t ascribe to any nation intent to attack neighbors in this region or to attack the United States,” he said. “But we need to have the capacity to respond should intent change.”
Pace said he is optimistic about continuing good relations with China. “China is a very important part of the global community. They continue to grow and to prosper. They are modernizing their military, for sure. We in the United States are encouraging them to be as transparent as possible so we can understand what they intend to do and how much money they’re spending on modernizing.
“I see much more probability of trade between all the nations in the Pacific than I do any kind of conflict,” he said.
The general said he was glad China sent representatives to the Asia Security Conference because it is a terrific forum for dialogue that can help further understanding.
With regard to terrorist threats, Pace said that he and the Malaysian officials spent their time discussing how they can better understand each other.
“Understandably, different cultures have different ways of looking at problems, not only Malaysia and the United States, but all countries,” he said. “How might we collectively get together and share our ideas, understand what we see as a terrorist threat, what we see that is the same and what we see as different so that as friends we can understand the perspective from which we all see the current threat so we can find the best way forward that respects each other’s sovereignty and views on how to deal with the problem?”