Remarks with Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests, before we begin, allow me to outline the flow of the events. The conference will begin with opening remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia followed thereafter by an opening statement by the Secretary of State of the United States of America. We will then proceed to the Q&A session. In view of time constraints, only four questions will be answered by the two ministers, two questions from the Malaysian-based journalists and two from the U.S. side.
It is now my pleasure to invite the Honorable Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman to deliver his opening remarks.
FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Thank you very much. Good afternoon and I am indeed very pleased to welcome Excellency Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, and her delegation to Malaysia. This is indeed a very meaningful visit, and not least because it is the first bilateral visit by a U.S. cabinet member since 1995. And it was Excellency Warren Christopher.
The Secretary of State and I, with our respective delegation, had a very productive bilateral meeting this afternoon and which provided us the opportunity to discuss bilateral, regional, and also international issues of mutual interest. We recognize the warming of relations between our two countries under the present leadership of Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak and Excellency President of America President Barack Obama. We acknowledge the excellent bilateral cooperation that exists in a range of fields, including defense, education, security, and counterterrorism. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Science and Technology Cooperation which will be held later this afternoon augurs well for our relationship.
We discussed the upward trend in the bilateral trade between our two nations and I stressed to Secretary Clinton that Malaysia views the U.S. as a very valuable and important partner to Malaysia, and in 2009 U.S. is Malaysia’s third largest trading partner, and for the period of 2004 to 2009 the U.S. was ranked as the second largest foreign investor in Malaysia so far as the manufacturing sector is concerned. And as of 31st of December 2009, 663 manufacturing projects totaling U.S. dollar 13.5 billion were implemented. These projects provided job opportunities for 160,000 people in Malaysia.
In addition to the very strong trade and investment relationship, we have very significant people-to-people links. We have nearly 5,000 students in the U.S. and a high number of American tourists visiting Malaysia each year. The total number of tourist arrivals from United States to Malaysia in 2009 was recorded at 228,000 as compared to 223,000 in the year 2008, so there’s an increase of Americans coming to Malaysia.
Malaysia also thanked the U.S. for its support in our participation in the Trans Pacific Strategic Partnership, TPP negotiations, and both sides expressed hope that our efforts to deepen the bilateral and multilateral economic relationship continue to bear fruit.
We discussed the issue on the cooperation in education with both sides committing to enhance educational cooperation, focusing on the teaching of English by facilitating and encouraging more people-to-people exchanges. I commended the U.S. Government on the various educational programs currently carried out by its Embassy in Malaysia. I believe that Malaysia stands to benefit greatly from the American expertise in teaching English, which is why we would like to work with the U.S. in bringing more of its teachers to Malaysia in the future and to assist in our efforts to improve the command of English, but also more importantly for those young Americans to come to Malaysia and especially to get to know the Malaysian people closer.
On the multilateral front, I took the opportunity to brief the Secretary of State on the Honorable (inaudible) Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib’s proposal on the 65th United Nations General Assembly to establish a global movement of moderates to combat the process of extremism irrespective of religion or creed which breed intolerance and distrust. I am heartened, too, by the U.S. support for the idea, and we both agreed all countries should encourage and support this initiative that promotes mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and rejects extremists who undermine the universal values of religion.
I also stressed that Malaysia is supporting the U.S. increasing engagement in Southeast Asia region, particularly in ASEAN. We commended on the fruitful discussions held between ASEAN leaders and President Obama at the second ASEAN-U.S. leaders meeting in New York recently and the commitment expressed by all parties to strengthen ASEAN-UN cooperation. Malaysia is also happy to welcome U.S. as a member of the East Asia Summit and believe that U.S. participation in East Asia Summit along with Russian further – Russia further harness the full potential of the EAS so that it remains relevant and effective in addressing current as well as future challenges.
On the Middle East process, I reiterated Malaysia’s support for all the efforts of the international community to find just, lasting, and comprehensive and peaceful settlement to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, including recent U.S. initiative in hosting direct peace talks in September 2010. Malaysia regards the U.S. as crucial player in attaining a durable solution in the Middle East conflict and hope U.S. continues to play a vital role and exercise impartiality in the Middle East peace process.
We also discussed Afghanistan, and Malaysia is proud to stand with the international community in support of a stable and peaceful Afghanistan. I informed the Secretary that on the request of the Afghanistan Government, Malaysia has dispatched Malaysian armed forces medical contingent comprising of 40 officers and men, and have been deployed in Afghanistan central province of Bamiyan to undertake the humanitarian mission of providing medical and healthcare services to local population.
And I also took the stress to Secretary of State that Malaysia is unique in the sense that of those medical volunteers that went there, there are a couple of women doctors and nurses that will assist greatly in the need for the medical services in Afghanistan.
To conclude, I am very pleased with the productive discussion held today and I sincerely thank Secretary Clinton for the commitment expressed to elevate our ties, and I candidly believe that Malaysia-U.S. bilateral relations will continue to grow (inaudible) for the mutual benefit of our two countries. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister, and it is a great pleasure for me to be here with you for this very productive bilateral consultation. I want to begin by wishing Prime Minister Najib a speedy recovery. I’m sorry we were not able to meet in person, but I did have a phone call with him earlier today and hope that he is back to full speed soon. And I look forward to seeing the deputy prime minister later this afternoon and signing some very important memoranda.
Since day one of the administration, President Obama and I have made it a priority to reengage with the Asia Pacific. 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. So the United States is committed to strengthening our ties and we are particularly enthusiastic about deepening, broadening, and strengthening our relationship with Malaysia.
We already have a strong partnership based on common values like respect for cultural diversity, pluralism, religious tolerance, along with our very important trade, business, and investment ties. We know that Malaysia is a leader in this region, and as I said earlier in the event at ISTAC, increasingly being looked to as both a thought leader and a model globally.
So the foreign minister and I had much to talk about, and let me just briefly mention some of the issues we discussed. The United States wholeheartedly endorses Prime Minister Najib’s call to promote religious moderation. We know that extremists exist in every religion. History has proven that, unfortunately, time and time again. But extremism is not a path to building sustainable prosperity, peace, stability, or democracy. It only promotes conflict and hardens hearts. So we very much welcome the prime minister’s call for a global movement of moderates and we are eager to support him and other leaders who take up this call to promote interfaith dialogue.
If we’re going to increase understanding among people, then we need to expand the ties that connect us. And we are exploring that around the world, but in particular we are very committed to expanding people-to-people engagement between the United States and Malaysia.
Later today, I will participate in the acknowledging and signing of three major agreements that will deepen our work together: first, a Memorandum of Understanding between our two governments designed to expand our collaboration on research and development of new technologies; second, a partnership between the Government of Malaysia and Johns Hopkins University to build a new medical school and teaching hospital here in Malaysia; and finally, the sale of 50 Pratt & Whitney airplane engines to Malaysia Airlines which will create new jobs in both countries.
We can also increase our people-to-people ties through education and student exchanges. President Obama and I admire the prime minister’s vision for dramatically improving English language instruction through a new partnership between the United States and ASEAN. Speaking a common language, the language of computers, of technology, of business and investment, does create a powerful bond. And as I spoke with the foreign minister, we’re getting to work immediately on how to implement that.
We’ve already begun delivering on the prime minister’s vision by doubling our program that helps young Malaysians get access to high-quality after-school English programs. And as the foreign minister and I agreed, our teams will begin discussing how to further expand English language learning.
Opening our minds to new ideas is an important part of building long-term security and stability, but we also have to confront hard realities, including the spread of nuclear weapons. With the passage of the Strategic Trade Act, Malaysia now has powerful new tools for preventing proliferation by making it easier to stop shipments of nuclear fuel, weapons parts, and other equipment especially to states that are flouting their international obligations such as Iran and North Korea. Implementing the act quickly and effectively will deny nuclear proliferators the opportunity to use Malaysian territory to further their goals. I am very grateful for the help that Malaysia is giving to the leaders and people of Afghanistan. The military medical mission that Malaysia has deployed, including physicians and nurses and, in particular, much-needed women doctors, are making a significant contribution in helping Afghans rebuild after 30 years of conflict.
Finally, we are pleased that Malaysia joined last month’s negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership. That is a pact that would expand markets and create a level playing field for people in every country that does participate. I know there are tough issues to work out, as there always are with these agreements, but Malaysia’s leadership in this region for greater economic growth is absolutely essential.
Our countries have a lot in common, and I am very excited by what I’ve already heard here in Malaysia. I told someone earlier that this short visit, my first, is but the appetizer. (Laughter.) So I intend to return in the future for the full banquet – (laughter) – and spend more time getting to hear firsthand from the people of Malaysia and working to strengthen the friendship between our two countries.
Thank you again, Minister.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman and Secretary Clinton, for your statements. We will now proceed to the question-and-answer session. I would now invite Mr. Arshad Mohammed of Reuters to ask the first question. It is also requested that you speak up a bit so the question could be heard clearly.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, as you know, the State Department’s Annual Report on Human Rights in Malaysia specifically states that the United States regards the prosecution of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as politically motivated. Did you raise that issue with the foreign minister or do you plan to raise it with the deputy prime minister this afternoon?
Second, the Chinese foreign ministry has issued a statement describing the U.S. position that the Senkakus fall under the security treaty with Japan as both totally wrong and essentially rejecting the idea of three-way talks that would cover that particular issue. Have you given up the idea of three-way talks (inaudible), or are you still going to try to move ahead with that despite the Chinese rejection?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Arshad, as to the first question, it’s well known that the United States believes it is important for all aspects of the case to be conducted fairly and transparently and in a way that increases confidence in the rule of law in Malaysia. Our Embassy maintains good relations with both the ruling coalition and the opposition as important participants in the democratic process here in Malaysia, and we will continue to support Malaysia’s progress in strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law.
With respect to your second question, the recommendation that I made to both Japan and China to have more frequent discussions between the two of them, and the offer that I made that the United States would be willing to host a trilateral with both Japan and China if that would facilitate dialogue stands. And it is not only about one issue. There are many issues that need to be discussed that I hope Japan and China will find an appropriate format in which to do so.
But we will continue to maintain our position that we take no approach toward the sovereignty over the islands. But our interpretation of our security alliance with Japan has been consistent over many decades now, and we do hope that Japan and China will find more opportunities to discuss whatever differences they have between them.
QUESTION: Did you raise the Anwar case or do you plan to?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Our teams raise it on a consistent basis.
QUESTION: But not you?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I have raised it and we have continued to raise it and it is part of our ongoing dialogue.
FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: And now if I can just add, Secretary Clinton, I have had the opportunity to explain some to foreign ministers, my counterpart, regarding the so-called political prosecution about Anwar. Now, what surprises me is that if there is a political prosecution, I think you have to give credit to (inaudible) national government is much smarter. We may as well stop Anwar before he becomes a member of parliament, rather than bring it to the open trial in a court. And I do not wish to comment much because it is before the court and (inaudible), but what I can assure you as a member of parliament and also as a member of the cabinet, that it is my interest and our interest to make sure Anwar get a fair trial. Because if there is such thing as political prosecution, if it can happen to Anwar, so it can happen to the rest of us.
So being an open trial, I think the world will be able to judge what will be the outcome. Now, again, I’d like to stress that it is actually a complaint by his employee and it is a private complaint. And I think it will be great injustice if you were to deny that individual his fair share of justice in this country. And I have also had people, leaders of some countries, asking us for the government to intervene, not to prosecute Anwar. I think it would be also a gross misconduct on our part if we do not allow the independence – or if we interfere the independence of judiciary. So we have faith – I have faith in the independence of the judiciary and we will (inaudible) it doesn’t bother us one bit whether Anwar will be getting a favorable judgment otherwise, but what bothers us is that there will be a fair and open trial. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Our next question from (inaudible) from Bernama, our national news agency.
FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Would you like to answer?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I was unable to meet with the prime minister today because of his illness. And that had an impact on my schedule here in Kuala Lumpur. Officials from the United States and the State Department have been in regular contact with Anwar Ibrahim, will continue to be in touch with him, and we’re watching his case very closely. And I think that what the foreign minister said about a free and open trial is exactly what we would expect.
FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Yeah, and so far as we’re concerned, I have no objections at all if Secretary Clinton wants to see Anwar Ibrahim. I think it’s customary for leaders when they come to any country just instead of her just seeing the government leaders, but also the opposition leaders. But in this instance, if I can just add on the precautions, because it is – the case is before the court. So we do not want to give the wrong signals to the people. And secondly, as a member of the (inaudible) national government, now we have (inaudible) elections in both Galas and also in parliamentary in Sabah.
So we do not want individuals or parties to be construed as if America or Secretary Clinton is assisting these people. So we fully appreciate the gestures that Secretary Clinton has given. And also as I said, this is a continuous engagement. I think we did mention that in my last visit to America. But nevertheless, (inaudible) we welcome any clarifications that America needs or any – for that matter, any country that needs from us. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Okay, I’m sorry. Because we are pressed for time, the next question will be the last one. The next question from the U.S. media from Mr. Lachlan Carmichael from AFP.
QUESTION: Yes, hello. Could you both discuss a financial contribution that Malaysia could make to Palestinian state building? The Secretary mentioned it during her town hall meeting.
And two, Secretary Clinton, when you return to the United States, will you see Prime Minister Netanyahu? And given the fact that (inaudible) represents the one month – the end of the one-month period that the Arabs gave you to get Netanyahu to stop settlement building, does it represent a last-ditch effort to save the peace talks that were launched in Washington on September 2nd?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Do you mind starting?
FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Okay, I’ll start on the first part first. Yes, Secretary Clinton did mention about Malaysia’s possible contribution to Palestine. And I fully support that. And I fully support that Malaysia and Malaysian companies should actually look into the possibilities of investing, especially Secretary Clinton was mentioning in the West Bank, which of course is very attractive for any investor to come in. And we will certainly look into that and we will do everything possible and especially one of the – I think one of my trip – my visit to that part of the world, I will try to bring some business people so that they can see for themselves and how Malaysia can participate in the reconstructions or rehabilitations of part of that Gaza and West Bank. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I thank the foreign minister for that commitment. It is very important for friends of the Palestinian people to support the state-building efforts that are ongoing. They are reflective of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to have their own state, and under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority has made significant progress as recently analyzed by the World Bank in building the institutions for a state. So it is part of our efforts in the United States to bring about a two-state solution that will provide the environment in which Israel has security and in which the Palestinian people have a sovereign, viable state. And you can’t do that just by signing an agreement, although we are working very hard to achieve that. You do that by helping the Palestinian people be ready for successful statehood.
We are working every single day in working to achieve a return to negotiations. And I will be talking with and meeting with anyone anywhere that could possibly contribute to that. I don’t yet have any specific schedule, but that may be scheduled later. But the bottom line for the United States, we are the single biggest supporter of the Palestinian people. We give more money than anyone else in the world to the Palestinian Authority. And we think it is important for other countries to also be contributing to assist the Palestinian people. I was very pleased that just recently Saudi Arabia, which has been a consistent supporter, announced an additional $100 million contribution. And we are very encouraged that many of our Asian friends who support a Palestinian state will be helping to provide government support and, as the foreign minister said, bringing private sector representatives to make investments.
This is one of the highest priorities of President Obama and myself. So it is something that we are working very hard on and it’s complex. It’s something that we came – we have come close to. When my husband was President, we came close. There was a very generous offer at that time coming from the Israelis that did not result in a negotiation. There were negotiations then between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert before he left office. So we are well aware that this is not only a high priority for the United States, but it’s a high priority for the world. And that’s why we must be united in trying to bring about a peaceful resolution of all of the outstanding issues in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and that results in a state for the Palestinian people. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER ANIFAH: Thank you very much.