Remarks With Malaysian Foreign Minister Y.B. Datuk Anifah bin Haji Aman After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
May 14, 2009

Date: 05/14/2009 Location: Treaty Room Description: Secretary Clinton and Malaysian Foreign Minister Y.B. Datuk Anifah bin Haji Aman After Their Meeting.  © State Dept Photo/Michael GrossSECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. I want to thank Foreign Minister Anifah for being here today. He has traveled a far distance from Malaysia to participate in meetings both here at the State Department and at the United States Senate. And President Obama and I look forward to working with the new Malaysian Government, and we see many opportunities for engagement between our two countries.

I am especially delighted because I think that the role that Malaysia is playing and can play, regionally and even globally, on a number of important issues is significant, and therefore we want to broaden and deepen our strategic cooperation.

Before providing a readout of our meeting, however, I wanted to speak to the case of Aung San Suu Kyi. I am deeply troubled by the Burmese Government’s decision to charge Aung San Suu Kyi for a baseless crime. It comes just before the six-year anniversary of her house arrest, and it is not in keeping with the rule of law, the ASEAN charter, or efforts to promote national reconciliation and progress in Burma.

We oppose the regime’s efforts to use this incident as a pretext to place further unjustified restrictions on her, and therefore we call on the Burmese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally, along with her doctor and the more than 2,100 political prisoners currently being held.

I have a great admiration for Aung San Suu Kyi, for her sacrifices and her love of her country. There are certainly political differences that exist in any society. The minister and I understand that. But we all should be striving to enhance the rule of law. And the ASEAN charter, which the minister and I spoke about in our meeting, sets a very clear direction for all the countries in the region to be headed.

The minister and I concluded a very productive meeting. We discussed a number of issues that matter to the people of Malaysia and the United States, including strengthening regional institutions like ASEAN, combating piracy and terrorism, finding solutions to the global financial crisis, dealing with refugee flows, and so much else. Malaysia is our strong and steady partner on these and other issues. And I want to also welcome the minister’s wife, who is here with us today.

Malaysia’s efforts to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden are very effective. Malaysia has had military vessels deployed there since last fall. They have a lot of experience and expertise in combating piracy. And we’re very pleased that Malaysia will be hosting a meeting on piracy in about a week and that Malaysia will attend the meeting of the Contact Group for Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. We look forward to Malaysia’s membership in this important body and to benefitting from their advice and counsel.

I reiterated to the foreign minister that the United States is solidly committed under the Obama Administration to strengthening our relationship with Southeast Asia. As you know, I visited the region on my first trip overseas as Secretary of State. I will return this summer for the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum meetings.

Malaysia is the United States’ 16th largest trading partner, and we are Malaysia’s largest. The United States appreciates this strong trade and economic relationship which has created tens of thousands of jobs in Malaysia and the United States, and we do look forward to closer cooperation.

I also told the minister that we will reach out to his government for lessons learned in the Malaysian financial crisis of about 15 years or so ago. We all have to learn from each other as we work through this global economic recession.

And I especially look forward to working on regional and international issues of common concern, such as trafficking in persons and the humane treatment of refugees and stateless persons.

You know, from U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in Malaysia in the 1960s and ‘70s, to the large number of Malaysian students currently studying in the United States, we have a long history of people-to-people ties. So I’m not only here on behalf of our government, Minister Anifah, I am here on behalf of the people of the United States who wish to strengthen these ties for the future.

So, again, welcome.

FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton, for welcoming me to the State Department. It is my first visit to Washington, D.C., and I am indeed delighted to be here, and also happy to be calling you in your capacity as the Secretary of State.

And Malaysia and the U.S. has enjoyed excellent relations, covering practically in all areas, including trade and investment, security and defense, and also education and many more areas. And we – our – my visit here today is to hopefully to bring this relation to a higher level. And we believe that there’s ample room, as Her Excellency has been saying, the issues they will discuss, including piracy.

And also, we are also very concerned as to what’s happening in Burma, in Myanmar, and we hope to use the ASEAN Forum to put forward and to – also to discuss further, and if it’s necessary, upon my arrival in Malaysia I will immediately contact the secretary general of ASEAN if it is possible to have a meeting immediately to address the issues which is also of concern to ASEAN members.

And also, Excellency, we are looking forward to your visit in July for the ASEAN Regional Forum in which I think it will be very, very useful and helpful for us to work further in our relationship and therefore the – what have considered that the relationship between United States and Malaysia as mature, friendly.

And also, as I said earlier, we want to bring a new level in this new Administration which we hope that we can positively contribute through our experiences in the financial crisis and also our experiences in tackling piracy in the Straits of Malacca, and I would be very pleased to send our delegates to the Contact Group meeting which will be held very soon. And we appreciate all the efforts that have been made together and I feel that Malaysia could contribute effectively towards that causes and common causes with United States and also Malaysia.

Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir.

MR. KELLY: The first question, Mr. Carmichael from AFP.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up first for both of you on the case in Myanmar, or Burma. The Amnesty International says that the only way to really put pressure on the regime is for ASEAN members and China and Japan to act, but so far there’s been no reaction, no strong reaction, from either of these countries.

And the other question is on Sri Lanka. Beyond the increasingly tough U.S. and high-level rhetoric, what concrete measures are you planning to take? The IMF is considering a $2 billion loan, and the British have proposed investigating the possibility of war crimes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to Burma, we are reaching out to our ASEAN partners like Malaysia. I hope to be speaking myself to the secretary general. We think that this does rise to the level of the kind of regional statements of concern that we would ask for.

We will also raise this with our other – other nations like China and see if we can’t, on a humanitarian basis, seek relief for Aung San Suu Kyi from this latest effort to intimidate and perhaps even incarcerate her.

With respect to Sri Lanka, we have been very clear in our statements, the most recent one by the President, that we have called for a humanitarian cessation of the hostilities and humanitarian relief to be provided to the perhaps as many as 50,000 people – we don’t have exact numbers – who are trapped in the fighting. We’ve called on both sides to cease their hostilities, and we’ve asked that both sides permit humanitarian relief to be delivered, and at the very least, a high-level humanitarian mission to make an assessment of what relief is necessary.

Obviously, this is a very troubling humanitarian crisis, and we have been focused on it and trying to convince both sides to cease their hostilities.

We have also raised questions about the IMF loan. At this time, we think that it is not an appropriate time to consider that until there is a resolution of this conflict. And that’s what we’re focused on trying to help bring about.

FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Thank you. And as I said earlier, you know, it is – I just got a report early this morning of what’s happening in Myanmar. And therefore, this is why we use a process of engagement, and we do not want to leave Myanmar in isolation. And we will use the good office of the ASEAN Secretariat to immediately engage in and to finding solutions to this matter, and if it is possible, this – the ASEAN+3, which includes China – we would also be, if it’s necessary to engage in, to seek their views and assistance in trying to solve the problem.

And insofar as Sri Lanka is concerned, I will be attending a (inaudible) meeting in London, where we’re going to discuss the issues on Fiji, and also to possibly include Sri Lanka issues. And I think it will be very, very useful and helpful in trying to see and assess the situations and to find solutions to what is happening there. Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Next question from this lady, (inaudible) in Malaysia.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Foreign Minister, with the new leadership in Malaysia and the U.S., what can be – what changes can be expected in bilateral relations?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are going to start a consultative process of engagement to determine how we can move our relationship forward. We think there are many opportunities for us to cooperate on regional and international problems more closely. We also think we have things to learn from Malaysia, for example, how they handled the economic crisis. The minister offered assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan, if the U.S. can work with Malaysia to figure out how best to deliver that.

We are both concerned about refugees fleeing from Burma and other displaced persons. We need a system to work with that. We want to do more on preventing the trafficking of persons through Malaysia, or to or from Malaysia. Education exchanges, scientific and technical exchanges, greater trade opportunities. I think that there’s a very long list of an agenda that can be comprehensive that we are going to be looking to build up and then act upon with Malaysia.

FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: As Secretary Clinton was saying, we have covered quite a wide range of subjects where Malaysia can also assist and through our experiences, especially in the financial crisis and also the piracy. And as I’ve informed just now, that we will be having international conference on piracy on the 18th of this month where 46 international speakers will be involved, including from the United States. And we feel that it is very, very important, and we place this high priority in order to solve the piracy in the Gulf of Aden, because it affects – it does affect the economy of the region and maybe the whole world.

And therefore, we want to share our experiences that we have gone through in the Straits of Malacca, as I said earlier. And there are instances whereby we have to seek the U.S. assistance in providing some assistance to Pakistan and Taliban in capacity building, especially our expertise in Islamic banking, and also to offer places of educations to Malaysia. And I think with the assistance from the United States and the cooperations that we have together, I think we’ll be able to contribute effectively towards this cause.

MR. KELLY: The next question, Mr. Mohammed from Reuters.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, just a quick one on North Korea. North Korea today said that it plans to try the two American journalists who have been held since March on June 4th. Any comment on that? And Ambassador Bosworth, before leaving Tokyo, said to the press that he thought everybody, meaning the other five, was quite relaxed or fairly relaxed with where the process is right now. I was a little surprised by that statement. It was almost as if you aren’t looking to find ways to entice the North Koreans back to the table.

And then one on Malaysia.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I can’t keep track of all these questions. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You can do it. Opposition leader – or opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim faces charges again, and I believe a trial later this summer, on charges that the State Department itself in the annual human rights report said are politically motivated. Did you raise his case specifically in your meeting today?

And, Mr. Minister, if you would care to comment on that case and specifically on the American position that the charges against Mr. Ibrahim are politically motivated.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to the latter question, we raised rule of law issues and the larger questions concerning the institutional reforms that Malaysia has been pursuing. We’re on record as to our opinion as to that particular case, and I think that speaks for itself.

With respect to North Korea, actually, the trial date being set we view as a welcome timeframe. We believe that the charges are baseless and should not have been brought and that these two young women should be released immediately. But the fact that they are now going to have some process we believe is a signal that there can be, and I hope will be, a resolution as soon as possible.

I met with Ambassador Bosworth upon his return from the region. I think what he was conveying is the consensus among the five parties – Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and ourselves – that North Korea knows what we expect of them. There was a process that they agreed to with obligations they were committed to fulfilling. We intend to continue with the Six-Party process. We are all in agreement on that. And I think that, in and of itself, is quite an accomplishment because, obviously, each of these countries has a different experience and perspective of North Korea. But we are united in our belief that we have to be patient. We have to be very clear as to what our expectations regarding North Korea are. And we intend to have an open door for a return to the Six-Party Talks. And China, which is the chair, has made it clear as well to the North Koreans that they wish to see this begin again.

So we are – the ball is in the North Korean court. And we are not concerned about chasing after North Korea, about offering concessions to North Korea. They know what their obligations are. They know what the process is. And we are all urging that they return and begin once again to act with us to move the agenda forward.

FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: I’d like to address the comment on Anwar Ibrahim. You know, we have utmost faith in our judicial system. And recently, as late as a few days ago, the court has declared that the chief minister of a particular state which comes from the opposition as election of a chief minister which is a rulings against the government. And insofar as Anwar Ibrahim is concerned, (inaudible) he – we know him very, very well. And he has – more or less, what he has said, especially overseas, most of the things are untrue; for example, like the involvement of our honorable prime minister and the murder of a Mongolian citizen. And he has repeatedly said before the elections that he will provide evidence and yet, until today, he has not given anything.

And also just for the information of the audience here that, you know, he also said that he will form a government on 16 September and he has changed the dates many time. And he was trying to entice the members of parliament. And I was personally offered to jump into the oppositions and offered a very lucrative position, and also to be told it’s like a deputy prime minister. And these are not known to the world at large. And he has started, you know, trying to buy into other, you know, legislative members. And I think what he is doing – he has not accepted the result of what – the last elections. And we have lost five states and we willingly and accept the people’s verdict. And all the time we leave it to the people to decide, and which, on the other hand has not been able to accept.

And it’s also my concern and that of our government that it is what he has been doing overseas to tarnish the image of Malaysia, which impinge trade and indirectly and directly, you know, bring hardship to the people of Malaysia, which he said he’s very, very concerned about. And therefore, it is our wish and hope that he will respect the democratic system in Malaysia, which is very open and which, I think, we have conformed to the wish of the people. And we have repeatedly told him that if he believes that he is the rightful prime minister, or his party has been sidetracked, then it is – wait for the next election. And he has continuously gave wrong impressions and accused all the government officials of being corrupted, which is part and parcel of the system (inaudible). And the people have rejected him in Malaysia, and is a proof that he has not been able to accept.

Thank you.

MR. KELLY: The last question goes to (inaudible) news.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hello, Madame Secretary and Dr. Anifah. Malaysia has a strong presence in the Organization of Islamic Conference. And I’m just wondering what role Malaysia can play in improving U.S. relations with Islamic countries.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s an excellent question. And we intend to engage with the Organization of Islamic Countries.[1] I think it’s clear from President Obama’s early months in office that the Obama Administration is reaching out to the Islamic world. Obviously, there’s a lot of diversity, and we understand that and accept and respect it. But we do want to work through organizations such as the OIC, and so we intend to do so, and both on a bilateral basis and then multilateral.

We would very much like to have the advice and the assistance of countries like Malaysia in how we can work more effectively with nations around the world. We’re interested in doing that with all nations. It’s not based on any kind of ethnic or religious or racial or any other characteristic. We won’t agree with everyone; no nation does. But we want to try to find as many areas of agreement as possible and narrow the areas of disagreement.

And where we have the opportunity, as I think we do through the OIC, we will be seeking out partners like Malaysia to guide and counsel us in the best way to make it clear that the United States wishes all countries well. We care deeply about building a world of peace and security, of prosperity. We would like to see the entire world improving and having the chance for many, many millions more people to live under democratically elected governments, to live under the rule of law, to have a chance to see their children fulfill their God-given potential. That is what the United States wants to promote. And we are looking for ways to make that clear and to have our values understood, to defend our interests and our security where we must, especially against extremism who threaten all countries and all faiths. So we think that there is a lot of opportunity ahead of us.

Thank you. Thank you all very much.


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[1] Organization of the Islamic Conference

PRN: 2009/461