Mahathir says Trump's style is hurting US efforts in Asia

NEW YORK • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said US President Donald Trump's diplomatic style is undermining US efforts in Asia, and he made a tongue-in-cheek prediction that China can outlast the United States in the latest trade dispute between the world's two biggest economies.

"He changes his views even in a matter of hours," Tun Dr Mahathir said of Mr Trump on Wednesday during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "Dealing with people who are not consistent is a big problem."

Dr Mahathir said China has history on its side as it nears a full-on trade war with the US, and he blasted Mr Trump's proclivity for sending what he says are mixed signals to the region.

"China has been there for 4,000 years," he said. "One has to learn to live with China."

Dr Mahathir, 93, was elected in May as the South-east Asian nation was embroiled in a scandal over corruption allegations against former prime minister Najib Razak. On the campaign trail, he voiced concerns over Chinese investments in the country.

Dr Mahathir previously served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, making him the country's longest-serving premier.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to dozens of criminal charges, including allegations that he received RM2.08 billion (S$686 million) in bribes related to the issuance of a government letter of support for a bond issue by state-run fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Dr Mahathir has set himself a target of recouping US$4.5 billion (S$6.1 billion) that he said was squandered through the troubled state fund.

The Malaysian leader has also pledged to end deficits and corruption in the country, and said he was forced to terminate a Chinese-led project to build a railroad on Malaysia's eastern coast because it was of bigger benefit to China than Malaysia.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2018, with the headline Mahathir says Trump's style is hurting US efforts in Asia. Subscribe