Washington, DC – Barack Obama will be the first US president to visit Malaysia in fifty years during a tour of four nations starting next month, the White House announced today.
Obama is scheduled to attend summits in Brunei and Indonesia, and also visit the Philippines, a longtime US ally, during the October 6-12 trip.
The previous US president to visit the country of Malaysia was Lyndon Johnson, dating back to 1966. Relations with Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, became sour during the tenure of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad between 1981 through 2003. Mohamad was a critic of the West.
According to the White House, Obama will visit Malaysia to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an initiative for job growth and a way designed by the US leader to reach out to Islamic nations.
Obama is also scheduled to meet with current Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak “to highlight our growing bilateral ties with Malaysia,” as mentioned in a prepared White House statement.
Obama, who lived in Indonesia in his early years, has placed priority on relations-buliding throughout Southeast Asia, which is largely viewed as a US-friendly region that has been neglected by the United States in the past.
Obama’s trip is “part of his ongoing commitment to increase US political, economic and security engagement with the Asia Pacific,” the White House statement adds.
Obama is going to take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia. After which, he will then head to the sultanate of Brunei to attend the East Asia Summit.
It is interesting to note that Russia traditionally participates in these regional meetings. This potentially giving Obama a good opportunity to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
In the current turmoil in Syria, Russia has spearheaded a proposal for the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to place all his chemical weapons under international control. This is to at least temporarily halt a US-led military attack in retaliation for the Syrian regime’s alleged use of the said weapons.