Obama to make rare Malaysia stop on Asia tour

Barack Obama will pay the first visit by a US president to Malaysia in a half-century on a four-nation Asia tour next month, the White House said Friday.

Obama will attend summits in Indonesia and Brunei and also visit the Philippines, a longtime US ally that supports greater military ties, during the October 6-12 trip.

The last US president to visit Malaysia was Lyndon Johnson in 1966. US relations with the Muslim-majority nation soured during the 1981-2003 tenure of prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, a strident critic of the West.

The White House said that Obama will visit Malaysia to take part in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an initiative on job growth that the US leader designed as a way to reach out to the Islamic world.

Obama will also meet Prime Minister Najib Razak "to highlight our growing bilateral ties with Malaysia," a White House statement said.

Obama, who spent part of his youth in Indonesia, has put a priority on building relations with Southeast Asia, seeing the fast-growing and largely US-friendly region as neglected in the past.

The trip is "part of his ongoing commitment to increase US political, economic and security engagement with the Asia Pacific," the statement said.

Obama will take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, Indonesia and then head to the sultanate of Brunei for the East Asia Summit.

Russia traditionally participates in the regional meetings, potentially giving Obama his latest opportunity to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has spearheaded a proposal for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to put his chemical weapons under international control, at least temporarily halting a US push for a military strike in retaliation for the regime's alleged use of the weapons.

Michael Green, who was the top Asia adviser to former president George W. Bush, said that Obama's "muddled message" on Syria could cast a pall over his public reception in Malaysia and Indonesia.

"If the process that the Russians have manufactured goes nowhere, which is very likely, and we're back to debate and possibly the use of force, that is not the context that you want to take into countries like Malaysia or Indonesia," said Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"You can't always make the summit about Asia when something in the other part of the world is catching the White House press corps's attention," he said.

Obama will be paying the first visit by a US president to the Philippines, a treaty-bound US ally and former colony, since Bush in 2003.

The Philippines said in June it was looking to give the United States, as well as Japan, greater access to its bases as it seeks to counter what it perceives as a growing threat from China.

China -- which contests maritime areas with the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan -- earlier Friday issued its latest warning for the United States to stay out of disputes.

The United States "should not send wrong signals that support or connive with relevant countries to act on their own initiative," senior Chinese military officer Wang Guanzhong told a US official in Beijing.

The Obama administration has repeatedly urged freedom of navigation and has stepped up military cooperation with the Philippines and Vietnam.

With the trip, Obama would have visited all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations except communist nations Vietnam and Laos.

The United States has been seeking better relations with both nations. Obama in July received President Truong Tan Sang who was paying the second visit by a Vietnamese head of state to the White House since the two nations' war.

Obama pledged to visit Vietnam but did not give a date. Vietnamese American activists had urged Obama not to visit on his upcoming trip, saying he should first seek improvements in human rights.

  • Man drives three-wheeled Mustang along a Texas highway 1 hour 4 minutes ago
    Man drives three-wheeled Mustang along a Texas highway

    Some things in life are hard to explain, like why a dentist insists on asking you questions when you clearly can't respond. Or why we call pants "a pair" even though it's just one. Or how about this puzzler: Why a person would drive their Mustang along a Texas highway despite it missing a wheel? Life is full of little mysteries, I guess.

  • How a mom stole a car in under 60 seconds 19 hours ago
    How a mom stole a car in under 60 seconds

    “I didn't steal your car but I think my mom may have. It's a long story. I'll explain, but your car is safe and sound," read the flier posted in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s a strange tale that began when Cheyrl Thorpe was asked by her daughter Nekisia Davis to dog sit her Pomeranian at her apartment, according to New York Magazine.

  • All-new 2015 Subaru Outback reestablishes higher ground 21 hours ago
    All-new 2015 Subaru Outback reestablishes higher ground

    Much of Subaru’s modern day success in America can be attributed to one car: the Outback. Born in 1994 as a response to the growing popularity of SUVs, the Outback established a winning formula of combining a high-riding suspension, butch body cladding and big round fog lights to its comfortable, no-nonsense Legacy wagon. It is the kind of unique product that only a quirky company like Subaru could build, and was one that kept Subaru from slipping into ubiquity even as traditional SUVs and crossovers have taken over the world.

  • Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers
    Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

    Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence.

  • Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry
    Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry

    Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation. Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge...