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Trump Praises Malaysia's Purchase of Boeing Jets, Fight Against Terrorism

September 13, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump is hosting Malaysia's scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak and praising his country's investment in the United States and the fight against terrorism.

Trump said Tuesday he and Najib "were working on very large trade deals," including $10 billion to $20 billion worth of Boeing commercial aircraft, as well as General Electric jet engines.

The deal, within five years, "will be worth beyond $10 billion," confirmed Najib, saying the aircraft would go to state carrier Malaysia Airlines.

"We are committed to 25 planes of the 737 Max-10, plus eight 787 Dreamliners and there is a strong probability, not possibility" of the purchase of an additional 25 737 Max-10 jets, Najib told Trump.

"We will also try to convince Air Asia to purchase GE engines," added the Malaysian prime minister.

A major pension fund with $7 billion already invested in the United States will also invest "three to four additional billion dollars to support your infrastructure and redevelopment in the United States," added Najib.

The prime minister also said his country remains committed to fighting terrorist groups, such as Islamic State and al-Qaida. Najib said the groups are the "enemy" of both the United States and Malaysia, adding "we will do our part to make sure our part of the world is safe."

Najib stressed the key for the United States "to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world" is to support "moderate and progressive Muslim regimes and governments around the world," such as Malaysia's "because that is the true face of Islam, that is the authentic face of Islam."

Najib "has been very, very strong on terrorism in Malaysia and a great supporter from that standpoint, so that's a very important thing from the United States," Trump said.

Corruption investigation

Najib's visit comes as some of his family members and associates are under scrutiny by the U.S. Justice Department, which is investigating corruption and money laundering of funds from the 1MDB state development company.

Najib, before his White House visit, was upset with U.S. media reports accusing his country of sliding into dictatorship. Najib fired back in a blog post contending the opposition's ability to criticize him was proof of democracy and free speech in the Muslim-majority federation.

Najib said, however, that critics "falsely running down Malaysia's vibrant democracy and spreading smears and falsehoods about this government in foreign newspapers just for political gain is another matter."

Freedom House describes Malaysia's media as "partly free," while Reporters Without Border notes "several proposed amendments would reinforce the already draconian Official Secrets Act and Communications and Multimedia Act, but the Sedition Act continues to be the biggest threat to journalists."

'Downplaying democracy'

Analysts say they are not surprised Trump hosted Najib.

"It's unfortunate but consistent with Trump's policy of downplaying democracy and human rights as an aspect of U.S. policy," says Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council for Foreign Relations.

“We are very surprised and worried that he has been received by the President of the United States in the White House,” says Alejandro Salas of Berlin-based Transparency International. “It doesn’t send a very good signal to anyone except Najib.”

There is a pragmatic reason for the Trump administration to host Najib, according to Kurlantzick, who tells VOA "we do need Malaysia's cooperation on certain issues, on the South China Sea and terrorism."

The U.S. Justice Department in June moved to seize more than a half a billion dollars in assets related to the 1MDB case, including a Picasso given to actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the screen rights to two Hollywood movies and a $27 million diamond necklace belong to Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor.

In all, according to Justice Department investigators, more than $3.5 billion from the 1MDB fund is alleged to have been diverted, including $731 million into Najib's bank accounts.

The prime minister has repeatedly insisted he has done nothing wrong.

Najib, in 2015, fired the country's attorney general and replaced him with a new one who quickly cleared the prime minister of any wrongdoing in the 1MDB probe.

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