Barack Obama on Saturday became the first sitting U.S. President in nearly a half-century to visit Malaysia, where an official said he immediately expressed solidarity over the frustrating effort to find missing flight MH370.
Mr. Obama is on a four-nation tour through Asia intended to underscore his “rebalance” of U.S. attention towards the strategic Asia-Pacific and to push stalled negotiations on a regional trade pact that would cement his legacy in the region.
He arrived with Malaysia under a world microscope over the airliner, which vanished without a trace on March 8 with 239 people aboard, stoking international criticism of a Malaysian government response seen as bumbling and secretive.
“[Obama] said he knows it is a tough, long, road ahead. We’ll work together. There is always support,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the U.S. President told him at an arrival ceremony under humid grey skies punctuated by a crashing formal gun salute.
“I’m very happy to hear [this] because it is a long journey.”
The plane is believed to have crashed in the remote Indian Ocean but is yet to be found.
Mr. Obama has used a tour which ends in the Philippines on Tuesday to stress U.S. commitment to Asian allies amid regional concern over China’s territorial ambitions. He had tough words for Pyongyang on Saturday, telling cheering U.S. troops in Seoul that the North was a state whose iron rule and belligerent threats were signs of weakness.
He said the 38th parallel dividing North and South is a border “between a democracy that is growing and a state that would rather starve its people than feed their hopes and dreams.” — AFP