Malaysia Foreign Relations

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Oscar Arribas
8:19pm Thursday 26 November

Malaysia Foreign Relations

Malaysia attaches high priority to the security and stability of South East Asia and in particular to its relations with its ASEAN partners.  To this end Malaysia has played an active and supportive role in ASEAN.  Its relations with Singapore are complex.  While the two countries share close economic and social linkages, the history of separation and some high profile disagreements have complicated the relationship.  Relations with Malaysia's largest neighbour, Indonesia, have also been tense at various times in the past half-decade: points of irritation have been the status of Indonesian workers in Malaysia (Indonesian temporary migrants, legal and illegal, comprise a large proportion of Malaysia's lower-income workforce), and disputes over maritime boundaries.  Malaysia continues to monitor the unrest in the southern Philippines and in southern Thailand close to its borders.

Historically under Prime Minister Adbullah's predecessor, Tun Dr Mahathir, who led Malaysia from 1981-2003, Malaysia looked increasingly outward beyond South East Asia to its relations with Islamic states and also with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).  Malaysia held the Chair of the NAM until September 2006 and the Organisation for Islamic Conference (OIC) until early 2008.  Malaysia takes part in the G15, a group of developing countries interested in promoting greater South-South economic cooperation (it hosted the inaugural G15 meeting in 1990).  It is also active in United Nations processes (Malaysia was a member of the Security Council in 1999 -2000) and the Commonwealth.  Foreign Minister Rais Yatim is currently Chair of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

Malaysia was Chair of the ASEAN Standing Committee in 2005/06.  In this capacity it hosted the 2005 ASEAN Summits in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005 and the first East Asia Summit (EAS), bringing together the leaders of ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.  The EAS is the first significant addition to the framework of institutional architecture in the region since the establishment of ASEAN+3 in 1997, and one of only two forums (APEC being the other) where Heads of Government from the broader Asia region and Australasia can meet on a regular basis.  Heads of Government will meet at the fourth annual EAS summit in Bangkok in December 2008.

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Last updated: 04 December 2008