Malaysian Leader Plays Up Aircraft Deals, Investments During U.S. Visit

By Michael C. Bender Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump touted what he described as a plan by Malaysia Airlines Bhd. to spend between $10 billion and $20 billion on Boeing Co. jets and General Electric Co. engines as he opened a White House meeting with Malaysia's prime minister.

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Mr. Trump, in a public appearance with Prime Minister Najib Razak, cited the airline deal as a basis for strong ties between the two countries. He also identified Malaysia as a strategic national security ally in Asia, while playing down the significance of a fresh round of sanctions against North Korea approved Monday by the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. Trump also praised Malaysia as a significant investor in U.S. securities, saying that American markets have been hitting records highs "on almost a weekly basis" during his presidency.

"I congratulate you on those investments," Mr. Trump said during a brief public appearance with the Malaysian leader.

Mr. Najib's visit comes as the U.S. Department of Justice investigates the alleged looting of 1Malaysia Development Bhd., a Malaysian economic-development fund. The probe threatens to ensnare much of the country's ruling elite, including Mr. Najib.

Mr. Trump didn't mention the investigation during his public appearance with Mr. Najib. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Monday that the investigation was "apolitical, and certainly independent of anything taking place" during meetings involving the president.

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Instead, the two leaders' were meeting to discuss a "wide range" of regional issues and security concerns, including the halt of Islamic State extremist group, North Korea's push for nuclear weapons, and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Mr. Najib said during the public appearance with Mr. Trump on Tuesday that he was interested in contributing to the U.S. economy.

Malaysia Airlines Bhd. agreed in 2016 to buy 25 Boeing 737s, with an option to buy another 25, in a deal estimated at $5.5 billion.

In an apparently new deal unveiled Tuesday, Malaysia Airlines also will buy eight Boeing 787 Dreamliners, Mr. Najib said, a deal that would be worth about $2.2 billion.

Mr. Najib said Tuesday the airline deals would be worth $10 billion in five years, or more if the airline executes the option for additional planes.

Mr. Najib also said the Employees Provident Fund, a major pension fund in Malaysia, planned to invest $3 billion to $4 billion in U.S. infrastructure projects. He said additional investments were planned from Malaysia's state investor Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which he said has an office in Silicon Valley.

Mr. Najib also didn't mention the Justice Department probe into the 1MDB investment fund in Malaysia.

Mr. Najib said that Malaysia was committed to fighting terrorism and "will also contribute in terms of the ideological warfare because you need to win the hearts and minds," while not specifically commenting on North Korea.

Mr. Trump said that Malaysia "does not do business with North Korea" any longer. "We find that to be very important," he said.

The president noted a fresh round of sanctions against North Korea was approved Monday by the United Nations, but said the move was "not a big deal."

"Those sanctions are nothing compared to what will ultimately have to happen," he said as reporters were escorted out of the room.

--Doug Cameron in Chicago contributed to this article.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 12, 2017 15:50 ET (19:50 GMT)