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Obama taps senior diplomat as Malaysia envoy

Concrete blocks set up as part of security measures are seen outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, December 30, 2005
Concrete blocks set up as part of security measures are seen outside the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, December 30, 2005. President Barack Obama on Wednesday named the acting top US diplomat on East Asia to be ambassador to Malaysia, fresh after an election

President Barack Obama on Wednesday named the acting top US diplomat on East Asia to be ambassador to Malaysia, fresh after an election in which the opposition alleged irregularities.

Joe Yun, whose previous assignments have included South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia, needs Senate confirmation, which will likely be easy if not swift. He would replace Paul Jones, a fellow career diplomat whose term is ending.

The nomination comes amid a US push to boost relations with Southeast Asia, which the Obama administration said had been neglected. US ties were uneasy with Malaysia during the 1981-2003 rule of firebrand Mahathir Mohamad.

Obama has congratulated Prime Minister Najib Razak for leading his Barisan Nasional to victory in elections last month despite charges of irregularities by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was jailed under Mahathir and has developed close ties with US officials on his frequent visits to Washington.

Yun, who is in charge of policy on Southeast Asia, has been serving as the acting assistant secretary of state for all of East Asia and the Pacific since February when Kurt Campbell -- a confidant of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton known for his high-octane style -- stepped down from the job.

Obama has appointed Danny Russel, a close aide with expertise in Japan, as Campbell's successor but Yun remains in charge until the Senate confirms the next assistant secretary of state.

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