Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 02/24/2014 -- Malaysia has enjoyed a relatively stable post-election period; a sweeping victory for Prime Minister Najib Razak's political allies within the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) following the latest party election suggests that we could see further progress on fiscal reforms in 2014. This should help cement internal stability. Externally, the country faces tensions over China's activities and territorial disputes in the South China Sea region; some Islamist groups are also operating in Malaysia and neighbouring states. However, overall defence spending and procurement has been relatively static, which the 2014 budget seeing a cut in money available for military development.
Malaysia's regional security situation also remains generally benign; the country is also enjoying a burgeoning defence relationship with the United States. A January 2014 meeting in Washington between the country's two defence ministers should likely result in more joint-forces exercises.
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Malaysia's relations with neighbours Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia are cordial, and China's territorial disputes with a number of countries in the region has so far had relatively little impact on Malaysia, although this does not rule out the possibility of more serious tensions in the future. A visit last year by the Chinese premier resulted in the signing of a new strategic pact between Malaysia and China, it what was interpreted as a reward to Malaysia's calm response - which has contrasted with that of other Southeast Asian countries - to China's regional activities. Malaysia already engages in defence industry collaboration with China, especially in the area of missile technology, and these joint efforts are now likely to deepen, with Malaysian industry the likely beneficiary.
The Washington meeting in January this year may go some way to resolving the fallout from US President Barack Obama 's failure to travel to Southeast Asia in October 2013 on what should have been a four-nation tour kicking off with a state visit to Malaysia. Obama pledged that he would still visit Malaysia during his presidency. And while it can hardly be claimed that Obama's failure to come to the region has fatally damaged the US strategic 'pivot' to Asia, his signature foreign policy, it certainly has weakened the US's image as a country that can get things done in the region vis-a-vis China. The full implications of this for Malaysia and the region could take some time to emerge, however, and the US continues to stress its commitment to the Asia-Pacific despite political gridlock at home.
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