KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday (April 18) that there was no need for a travel advisory against visiting the country, as it is a "safe nation".
"People can come here and there is no need for an advisory against Malaysia."
"I am quite sure you can come here for dinner, or lunch, and you feel quite safe, but in some countries, even as you are praying, they can kill you," he said at an American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce luncheon here.
"One or two terrorists have been caught, but otherwise we are a safe country," he said.
The US State Department on April 9 placed Malaysia on the "K" list on its travel advisory, reflecting a concern about potential kidnapping or hostage-taking situations in certain areas of eastern Sabah.
The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, based in the southern Philippine islands, have periodically carried out kidnappings of tourists who visit Sabah's many islands bordering the Philippines.
Tun Dr Mahathir said American investors in Malaysia should encourage their fellow Americans to visit the South-east Asian nation.
"For some reason or another, we are not getting American tourists. No American planes or companies fly to Malaysia."
"They fly to Singapore but not to Malaysia. I have always wondered why - we are nice people," he quipped.
Malaysia's Foreign Ministry summoned US ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdir on Wednesday (April 17) to explain her government's decision on the travel advisory.
The Foreign Ministry in a statement said acting secretary-general, Raja Datuk Nushirwan Zainal Abidin, also handed the envoy a protest note, expressing the Malaysian's government's objection to the decision by the United States.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia would see more mainland Chinese tourists if the visa process was expedited, and that the nation is hoping for at least 30 million tourists from China by next year.
He said there are many tourists from neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Indonesia coming to Malaysia.
"If we can persuade them (Singapore) to build the third bridge, we can get some benefit from there too," he added.
Dr Mahathir has been pushing Singapore to build a third link to Johor, to add to the Causeway and the Second Link bridge at Tuas.