Trump’s Malaysia Gambit: Call It Another Win

Less than two weeks ago there was a bit of news—little reported in the United States, but more on that later—that Malaysia had cut off all imports from North Korea. In the scheme of global trade, the numbers seem small. Malaysia’s annual imports may total no more than about $15 million, but those millions in cash are the lifeblood of a pariah nation that can barely pay its electric bill, let alone finance even the barest-bones infrastructure project to pave roads.  

Malaysia’s decision to cut economic ties with Kim Jong-un shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the North Korean dictator had the poor social grace to have his half-brother assassinated in the Kuala Lumpur international airport. But that isn’t the only reason. Give some credit to savvy foreign policy gamesmanship by President Trump and his administration.

Recall that about a month ago, Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, visited the United States and the White House. To the media, the visit was “controversial” and a “terrible idea.” So-called “foreign policy experts” called the meeting a setback for the rule of law. The media’s favorite term to describe the prime minister was “embattled,” due to a financial scandal in which he is allegedly embroiled, although the Malaysian justice system has yet to find any evidence to charge him with a crime.

One wonders where the media watchdogs were when President Barack Obama climbed into bed with the Castro regime in Cuba, or when he endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring uprisings, which led to the downfall of one of America’s stronger allies in the region. In fact, Obama continued to endorse the Muslim Brotherhood, an entity that was spreading its particular brand of religious zealotry and violence to countries like Malaysia, where Prime Minister Razak has been battling them.

Only President Trump and his foreign policy advisers seemed to understand the importance of working with an influential, duly elected regional leader on a broader agenda important strategically to both the United States and Malaysia, and other allies in the region.

The Trump Administration had two goals with Malaysia: first, solidify a friendship that had been weakened by Obama Administration failures and then reinforce the critical role Malaysia can play in the region as a key strategic partner of the United States.

In seeking to overcome the mismanagement of our relations during the Obama years, the Trump Administration also wanted to prevent a turn toward China as Malaysia can play a vital role in the Asia Pacific region on trade, counter-terrorism and the in our relationship with China.

Multi-Front Diplomacy
At the same that President Trump was meeting with Malaysia, the United States was also working with China on their response to an increasingly troublesome and aggressive North Korea. In the end, the Trump Administration’s efforts paid off on several fronts.

First, Prime Minister Razak announced his country’s intention to purchase upwards of $20 billion in jets from Boeing over the next decade, as well as investing an additional $3-4 billion on top of the $7 billion Malaysia already annually spends in the United States. Second, President Trump and Razak committed to work on a trade deal with Malaysia that would be an economic boon to both nations. Third, we are now seeing the additional steps Malaysia is taking in support of regional security, cutting off its own trade, and assisting the Trump Administration in encouraging China to step in line with other players to do the same.

For his part, Razak came to Washington hoping to strengthen Malaysia’s economic and strategic partnership with the United States and Malaysia, and left having achieved both. It’s not an accident that at the same time as Malaysia is stepping up, China announced that it was cutting off banking ties with North Korea, perhaps the most serious blow to Kim Jong-un’s efforts to rally support against the United States and broader global efforts to contain him.  

Trump’s Malaysia gambit is an excellent example of the kind of realpolitik approach to foreign policy that America has desperately needed for more than a decade. Rather than coddling tin-pot dictators and terrorists at the White House, we have an administration that is willing to work with leaders who are willing to work with the United States, reach mutually beneficial agreements, and along the way strengthen U.S. national and economic security both abroad and at home.

Some like to toss around the term “nationalism” as though it were a pejorative, but it’s clear that for many Americans, it’s an approach worth defending if not wholeheartedly supporting.

We’ve seen what happens when we have a president unwilling to defend and uphold our nation’s interests at home and abroad. It will take years for us to recover, but the Trump White House is digging in and rebuilding that trust and that national interest one ally at a time and whether the media elite and its friends like it or not.


About Ned Ryun

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.

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17 responses to “Trump’s Malaysia Gambit: Call It Another Win”

  1. President Trump really is working to make America great again. It’s not just a campaign slogan.

  2. Trump is the ONLY man who could put up with the sewage being thrown from the swamp. MAGA!

  3. Good job Mr. President! It’s past time for some pragmatism in D.C.

    It makes the swamp less and less powerful.

  4. A president that not only actually believes in America, but works to support and defend her and her ideals! Go Trump!

  5. outstanding

    President Trump is respected by the world, unlike the last few

    • Obama’s apology tour brought the US nothing but disdain. Like it or not, if a person or a nation shows weakness, he invites attacks.

  6. Given what is becoming very apparent on the Russian dossier bomb and what’s happening on the ground, Trump has got to be enjoying dropping into his bed at night. Well earned SIR!!! And about damned time! Just Sayin. This comes from an agnostic on politics. There is no way I can imagine getting this across to my fellow Americans at this point (a little too soon for the masses to understand) but DUDES there is finally a chance in Hell that WE ARE BACk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE ARE BACK!!!!!!!!!

  7. By the way………..just in case there is an intelligent human being at Real Clear Politics monitoring all of this stuff I can not get on with my moniker. And though I have thought of you as exemplary, I don’t feel that way now. Since i am not off the wall crazy, I can only assume your system change was far from seamless.

  8. All I can say is the whole Russia dog and pony show is blowing up in their faces. They’ve been trying to politically assassinate Trump a long time, and he’s hard to kill. Sites like this are essential in knowing anything.

  9. President Trump’s “conduct of foreign relations” has been characterized by Official Visits, mostly at the WH, with bilateral team meetings, usually a Working Luncheon with carefully planned, actionable ‘issues’ focused on security and prosperity. Kudos to Ned Ryun for highlighting (even noticing!), what was one of almost fifty such bilateral hostings so far, when Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak, and his team, visited the WH on Sept. 12, 2017.
    09 12 2017 Malaysia: Working Luncheon, West Wing Cabinet Room, photo from Times of Oman same as NYT

    Yes, I am tracking this, because of the near absence of domestic media coverage, the distortions when there is coverage, the intentional distractions and obstruction in the Senate, and the fabricated ‘rifts’ also meant to distract from reality. is doing a better job of posting details in October, and getting more dimensional news coverage. press releases are a wealth of primary source information: needs more reports (INDIA!) like Ned Ryun’s – and somehow make the Editors stop spinning Featured reports based on anonymous sources as Trump/Tillerson ‘failures’.

  10. “Recall that about a month ago, Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, visited the United States and the White House. To the media, the visit was “controversial” and a “terrible idea.” So-called “foreign policy experts” called the meeting a setback for the rule of law. The media’s favorite term to describe the prime minister was “embattled,” due to a financial scandal in which he is allegedly embroiled, although the Malaysian justice system has yet to find any evidence to charge him with a crime.”

    Sounds just like what Trump’s going through, at the hands of “GOT NUTHIN” Uranium One Mueller, Comey and Rosenstein.

  11. Gosh, I haven’t read a thing about this on the NYT or WaPo websites. What’s up with that?

  12. Trump is going to go down as one of the great presidents. He is a tireless worker that has America’s best interest at heart. The swamp is apoplectic about his presidency because they can’t corrupt him with payoffs and bribes like the Clinton machine.