KUALA LUMPUR, Oct. 3 -- Malaysia is seeking to further enhance ties with China and tap new areas of cooperation, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said here Thursday.
In an interview with Xinhua ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Malaysia, Najib said Xi's visit signals China's desire to keep up warm ties with Malaysia, which he believes will advance on a strong footing under China's new leadership.
"The visit would strengthen and reaffirm the close ties between our two countries and set the future direction," he said.
The theme of Xi's Malaysia trip, said Najib, would be to take bilateral ties to a higher level and add fresh impetus to their cooperation. He urged both sides to further tap their cooperation potential by identifying more strategic areas with "low hanging fruits."
Xi is scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur Thursday evening, the second stop of his first trip to Southeast Asia after taking office in March.
He is expected to meet with Supreme Head of State Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, hold talks with Najib and attend the China-Malaysia Economic Cooperation Summit.
Najib, who will join the Chinese leader in overseeing the signing of a raft of cooperation deals, said the two countries should make their relations more multi-faceted and pervasive by including more areas for cooperation, such as education, technology and finance.
Moreover, Malaysia welcomes more Chinese investment into the country, which is an important part of bilateral cooperation, said Najib, noting that several new investment deals will be inked during Xi's visit.
China has been Malaysia's largest trading partner for four consecutive years, while Malaysia has been China's largest trading partner among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for five years in a row. In 2012, two-way trade soared to a record high of 94.8 billion U.S. dollars, nearly a quarter of China's total trade with ASEAN.
In addition, Najib also urged deeper high-level contacts and people-to-people exchanges to enrich bilateral ties.
"I would like to see the cooperation between the two countries to transcend to all levels of our societies," he added.
On regional cooperation, the Malaysian leader said that as a founding member of ASEAN, Malaysia stands ready to contribute to stronger China-ASEAN ties.
"Not only is China a dialogue partner with ASEAN, but it's also an integral part of the East Asia summit," he said.
"Because of that, the relationship between China and ASEAN is very important and continues to grow particularly in terms of trade and China' s involvement in major infrastructure projects in the whole region," he added.
As ASEAN strives to build an economic community by 2015, said the Malaysian leader, its relations with China will get stronger in the years to come.
Meanwhile, Najib said Malaysia and China share common ground on many multilateral issues, urging the two sides to work closely together in their pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity for the whole region.
Malaysia was the first among ASEAN members to establish diplomatic ties with China and the two sides will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations next year. Najib said he plans to visit China and looks forward to working out with Beijing on major events to mark the anniversary.
Najib said Malaysia-China relations have developed by "leaps and bounds" since 1974, when his late father, then Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein paid a historical visit to Beijing and forged ties with China.
"I am pleased as a leader of government and at personal side that what was started in 1974 by my late father has today blossomed into a very important relationship between the two countries," he said.
Najib also told Xinhua that he had persuaded his son to learn Chinese in Beijing, as the growing importance of China as an economic powerhouse necessitates a degree of proficiency in Chinese language.
"I hope that will give a new dimension in terms of how we can reinforce the relationship between the two countries," he said.