KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - United States President Donald Trump may visit Malaysia after the 33rd Asean Summit in November, a White House official said.
The planned visit was raised by National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs Matthew Pottinger, the first Trump administrator to visit Malaysia since the country's historic general election in May, during a media round-table in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (June 19).
"Trump looks forward to deepening our comprehensive partnership with Malaysia," said Pottinger.
"We've got the Asean Summit coming up later this year, so we're exploring possibilities for the President's follow-on travel," he added.
The 33rd Asean Summit is to be held from Nov 11 to 15 in Singapore.
Pottinger said he on Tuesday conveyed a letter from Trump to the Malaysian government congratulating Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Pakatan Harapan coalition on its electoral victory.
Tun Dr Mahathir has previously said that he has no plans to meet Trump and that he does not know how to deal with the US leader's "volatile" personality.
The new Prime Minister's stance is worlds apart from his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak who sought a close relationship with Trump, even travelling to the White House to discuss bilateral ties.
When asked whether Dr Mahathir's negative view of Trump would sour relationships between the two countries, Pottinger said they "look forward to engaging and deepening the bilateral relationships at all levels of government".
On the South China Sea dispute, Pottinger said the United States and its partners would continue responding to China's militarisation of the islands in the area.
In late May, two US warships had sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, among the disputed islands that China had claimed, in a move that provoked Chinese authorities to respond by dispatching its own warships to confront the US Navy.
Pottinger said the South China Sea is part of the maritime commons and expressed disappointment at China's militarisation of the sea.
"The United States and its partners will all be taking steps in the near and long term to respond to that militarisation. Those kind of steps should be viewed as stabilising the situation and not as provocation," he added.
Dr Mahathir had previously said he did not want any foreign warships in the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca.
He subsequently signed an agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to keep both seas free for navigation for all countries.
Pottinger's visit to Malaysia comes after the Singapore Summit where Trump had met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.