United States President Barack Obama (right) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak sit during their bilateral meeting on the sideline of 27th Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Pix by Yazit Razali

KUALA LUMPUR: The strong security ties shared between Malaysia and the United States can be used to combat the radical narrative presented by the Islamic State (IS).

US president Barack Obama said Malaysia’s role as a Muslim nation which represents tolerance and peace can play a critical role in the movement.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, meanwhile, said Malaysia’s position against IS was clear, and that the country will work with the US and like-minded nations on the issue.

Both leaders were speaking to reporters after their bilateral meeting on the eve of the 27th Asean Summit to be held here.

Obama had praised Malaysia for its role as a Muslim-majority country which represented tolerance and peace.

The US and Malaysia, he said, have a "very strong relationship” on counter-terrorism.

“Malaysia, like Indonesia, is a Muslim-majority country that represents tolerance and peace and as a consequence, its voice is critical in the debates taking place internationally around terrorism especially to fight IS,” he said.

"Malaysia is part of the coalition to fight (the IS) and can be extraordinarily helpful on issues like countering the destructive and perverse narrative that's developed," said the president.

In October, Malaysia had announced its plans to set up a Regional Digital Counter-Messaging Communications Centre, to be located in Kuala Lumpur, to counter the IS narrative.

The US will assist Malaysia in aspects of training, equipment and operations.

Najib, meanwhile, said the establishment of the centre will address terrorism and extremism using counter narratives and portray the true picture of Islam.

"It is not only military solutions that are required to win (the fight against terrorism), but to sway the hearts and mind of people by presenting counter narratives, the authentic Islam and a true picture of Islam," he said.

Najib said the Asean region was not immune from violence and extremism, of which there were groups that were aligned to the Islamic State.

"The position of Malaysia is very clear as we are against IS, as it is evil and a perversion of Islam.

"We will work with the US and other like minded nations on this," he said.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), Najib said he had explained to Obama the domestic processes involved, including presenting it to the Cabinet next week and bringing it to Parliament in a special session in January.

"We hope with the support and approval of Parliament, the TPP will be ratified or put into operation within two years.

"We believe it (the TPP) will create the kind of increase in trade, innovation and investment as well as set standards with respect to labour and environment," he said.

Obama expressed hope that Malaysia would ratify the agreement soon and pledged to work on issues that must be addressed in the agreement.

"Malaysia has begun its reforms such as countering human-trafficking and other issues embedded in the agreement. We will continue to work with Malaysia on that front,” he said.

On the South China Sea issue, Najib said Obama had told him the US’ position on the matter.

"I also explained to the president our position, which is consistent with the rule of law. We hope that the area of tension will not escalate and we’ll be able to find a negotiated settlement that is consistent with the principles of international law and respects the rights of big and small nations."

Obama said the US strongly believed in the need to apply the rule of law, and that Asean had to ensure that basic rules applied because the foundation of its growth lay in the free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation.

The leaders also discussed the need to conclude a deal during the United Nations’ climate change talks in Paris on Nov 30.

"Malaysia is committed to find a deal. If necessary, we will revive our position to ensure that we do not fail in Paris.”

The prime minister also said he and Obama spoke about general developments in Malaysia.

"I explained the current situation in Malaysia. The president also raised some of his views and we took into account some of his views and concerns but Malaysia is committed to reform and we are committed to ensuring at the same time, peace and stability in the country."