Gates Arrives in Malaysia to Bolster Closer Bilateral Ties
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 9, 2010 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here today to acknowledge contributions Malaysia is making in the immediate region and beyond and to explore ways to broaden the two countries’ military-to-military relationship.
Arriving here from the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations in Melbourne, Australia, where he focused on expanding an already-robust bilateral military relationship, Gates now will focus on a growing partnership.
During meetings with Prime Minister Najib Razak and Defense Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamid, Gates is expected to laud Malaysia’s contributions in the counterproliferation, counterterrorism and maritime security arenas, as well as global humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.
Gates also will express thanks for Malaysia’s new role in Afghanistan, he said. Malaysia recently deployed a 40-member medical unit, which is serving alongside New Zealand medics in Bamiyan province and providing medical and dental services to local Afghans.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, talking to reporters with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during her visit here last week, expressed pride in his country’s new International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan. “Malaysia is proud to stand with the international community in support of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan,” he said.
A senior defense official traveling with Gates told reporters the Afghanistan mission is representative of Malaysia’s concerted effort to reach out and engage with the United States and other regional partners.
“Malaysia has taken great pains, especially under Prime Minister Anifah, to … work toward a lot of the common interests,” he said. “They have really demonstrated that they understand the importance of working together, of cooperating, and serving these common interests. … We have seen a lot of progress in a very short amount of time.”
Gates and his Malaysian hosts will discuss ways to expand on that progress and identify areas where their militaries can work more closely and effectively in support regional and global missions, he said.
Gates’ visit here, just a week after Clinton’s, demonstrates the United States’ great appreciation for this evolving bilateral relationship, which President Barack Obama and Najib agreed to build on during their meeting in April, the official said.
Clinton became the first secretary of state to visit here in 15 years, except to attend international conferences. While in Kuala Lumpur, she praised Malaysia, a moderate, predominantly Muslim nation that rejects extremism. She also urged closer ties on issues ranging from trade, education and science to nonproliferation and the Afghanistan mission.
Anifah, speaking with Clinton at a news conference during her visit, said Malaysia welcomes increased U.S. engagement in Malaysia and the broader Southeast Asia.
“We know that much of the history of the 21st century will be written in this region, because it is the center of so many of the world's greatest opportunities and biggest challenges,” Clinton said. “So the United States is committed to strengthening our ties and we are particularly enthusiastic about deepening, broadening, and strengthening our relationship with Malaysia.”
Gates hopes to build on that progress and explore new areas for security cooperation, Morrell said, calling Gates’ visit here “another signal of our deepening relationship with Malaysia.”