The recent meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Abdul Razak and United States (US) President Donald Trump on 12 September 2017 as part of his working visit to Washington was indeed a success not only for him and his government but also for the Malaysian people, considering the fact that the two countries set apart by the Pacific Ocean have been enjoying 60 years of diplomatic relations.
As opposed to some quarters that commented the visit was unofficial, it is in reality official, as matters pertaining to regional and international issues were discussed at length between the two leaders. A visit by a government leader to a foreign country by invitation must surely include official elements as it is aimed at promoting friendlier ties between the two countries.
Furthermore, Trump’s invitation for Najib to visit Washington clearly signals his recognition of Najib as a leader strongly committed to peace and economic development. These values certainly help to promote common understanding and nurture bilateral ties and cooperation between the two countries.
From Trump’s perspective, Malaysia’s economic success is bound to impress him more than the 1MDB issue. Had Trump adhered to pressure from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) about the scandal, then there is less likelihood of expanding cooperation between Kuala Lumpur and Washington.
The fact that Trump welcomed Najib to the White House was a clear indication of his recognition of Najib as a trusted and moderate Islamic leader devoid of allegations of the latter’s involvement in the scandal involving siphoning of funds from 1MDB set up in 2009 to promote economic development.
Trump is in fact seeking a Southeast Asian leader who is sincerely committed to economic development, fighting terrorism at home and regional security. The visit has thus helped to foster closer ties between ASEAN and the US.