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Trump hosts scandal-hit Malaysian PM

AFP  |  Washington 

US President Donald Trump hosts Malaysia's prime minister at the today, a meeting that risks being overshadowed by his guest's spiraling corruption scandal.

Prime Minister Najib Razak will visit the Oval Office for talks that the says will be focused on terrorism, trade and Asian maritime disputes.

But the run-up to Najib's arrival has been dominated by questions about his entanglement in an ongoing US Justice Department investigation.

The veteran prime minister faces allegations that billions were looted from a sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), in complex overseas deals that are being investigated by authorities in several countries, including the United States.

Both the prime minister and the fund deny any wrongdoing, but the Justice Department has filed civil lawsuits to seize assets, from high-end real estate to artworks, it says are worth about USD 1.7 billion.

The refused to say whether the issue will come up, and has tried to shift the focus onto relations with a key partner in South East Asia.

Trump is expected to visit the region later this year for summits in Vietnam and the Philippines.

"Look, we're not going to comment on an ongoing investigation being led by the Department of Justice," said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders yesterday. "That investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place tomorrow."

"The United States and have had a 60-year relationship and partnership built on common economic and security interests, and that continues."

She listed "strengthen counterterrorism cooperation," halting the Islamic State group, "addressing North Korea" and "making sure that we promote maritime security in the South China Sea" as topics for discussion.

Trump is also likely to reiterate thanks for Malaysia's efforts to assist the USS John S. McCain, which collided with a tanker as the destroyer was on its way to Singapore, tearing a huge hole in the hull and leaving 10 sailors dead.

Ahead of his arrival at the White House, Najib sought to play up majority-Muslim Malaysia's role as a partner in countering violent extremism.

"What underpins decades of friendly, productive and cooperative relations are the deep-seated values we share," he wrote in an article published by The Hill newspaper.

"Our commitment to the fight against radicalization and terror is something we feel in our hearts.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, September 12 2017. 21:42 IST