Gates Cites New Opportunities for U.S., Malaysia to Engage

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 9, 2010 — Cit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to expand a 25-year mil­i­tary part­ner­ship in ways that ben­e­fit both coun­tries and the entire region, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today reaf­firmed the U.S. com­mit­ment to Malaysia.

Gates, pay­ing his first vis­it to Malaysia, declared dur­ing a joint news con­fer­ence with Defense Min­is­ter Ahmad Zahid Hami­di the “strong state” of the bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship and areas where it can expand to address cur­rent and emerg­ing chal­lenges and threats.

Dur­ing his meet­ing with Hami­di and a phone con­ver­sa­tion with Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Najib Razak, who is recu­per­at­ing after a hos­pi­tal stay, Gates and the Malaysian lead­ers explored some of those areas, includ­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism, coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion and mar­itime secu­ri­ty.

They also dis­cussed increas­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary engage­ments, with more com­bined exer­cis­es aimed at “enhanc­ing our abil­i­ty to oper­ate togeth­er,” Gates said.

The sec­re­tary praised Malaysia’s “strong record as a leader in peace­keep­ing and human­i­tar­i­an efforts,” and said he and his Malaysian hosts dis­cussed “ways to work togeth­er to bol­ster that capa­bil­i­ty fur­ther.”

The sec­re­tary said he also thanked Malaysia for its con­tri­bu­tion to Afghanistan, where it has deployed a 40-mem­ber med­ical team to serve along­side medics from New Zealand in Bamiyan province.

The Unit­ed States and Malaysia “share a desire to com­bat extrem­ism, strength­en the rule of law and pro­mote eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment” in Afghanistan, Gates said. They also share a belief in the prin­ci­ples that are key to the region’s pros­per­i­ty, the sec­re­tary added, includ­ing “free and open com­merce, adher­ence to the rule of law and inter­na­tion­al norms, open access by all to the glob­al com­mons of sea, air space and now cyber­space, and the prin­ci­ple of resolv­ing con­flict with­out the use of force.”

“It is our shared belief in these prin­ci­ples that has led the U.S. and Malaysia to the strong defense rela­tion­ship we have today,” Gates said. “These are the prin­ci­ples that will con­tin­ue to guide us as we take on new secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, togeth­er with oth­er nations in the region, in the years to come.”

Gates said he hopes his vis­it, just a week after Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clinton’s stop here, sends a clear mes­sage that the Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to its rela­tion­ship with Malaysia.

Respond­ing to a reporter’s ques­tion, Gates said the Unit­ed States wel­comes China’s role in this expand­ed rela­tion­ship, includ­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in multi­na­tion­al exer­cis­es. He sug­gest­ed human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter response exer­cis­es as a good start­ing point. “Every coun­try in the region has an inter­est in this capa­bil­i­ty,” he said.

Hami­di, also respond­ing to a reporter, rec­og­nized Malaysia’s rela­tion­ship with Chi­na that dates back more than 1,000 years. “We both need each oth­er,” he said, deny­ing that Malaysia in any way feels “bul­lied” by Beijing’s activ­i­ties in the region.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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