WASHINGTON – United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday before leaving for Singapore to attend a summit of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the US State Department said.
Pompeo, who arrived in Malaysia on Thursday night, visited Mahathir in Putrajaya and congratulated the 93-year-old leader for his surprise victory in elections held in May.
Mahathir assumed office for his second stint as prime minister after having led the country from 1981-2003.
His opposition coalition beat the ruling Barisan Nasional – in power since the country’s independence – after its leader Najib Razak was linked to a corruption scandal in the state investment fund 1MDB, which is being investigated in several countries including the US.
Pompeo and Mahathir discussed a number of issues of mutual interest, according to a statement by the Malaysian government.
A US State Department official ruled out that the meeting included discussions on the judicial probe in the 1MDB scandal.
The US Department of Justice has estimated that around $4.5 billion could have been diverted from the fund, out of which around $1 billion might have been laundered in the US through the purchase of real estate, yachts, jewelry and artworks.
The US and Malaysia established diplomatic ties in 1957, when the latter became independent from British rule, and strengthened them in 2014 by signing a partnership agreement.
After meeting Mahathir, Pompeo is set to leave for Singapore, the second stop of his Southeast Asia tour, where he will attend the ASEAN meeting, coinciding with the visit of a North Korean delegation, headed by his counterpart Ri Yong-ho.
On Thursday, the ASEAN foreign ministers urged the two Koreas, the US and other parties to sustain efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and establish lasting peace.
ASEAN consists of Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, which have a joint population of around 630 million.