Malaysia is a member of the UN, having joined on 17 September 1957, and participates in ESCAP and all the nonregional specialized agencies. It also belongs to the Asian Development Bank, ASEAN, the Commonwealth of Nations, and G-77. Malaysia is a signatory of the Law of the Sea and a member of the WTO.
Before the 1970s, Malaysia pursued a pro-Western policy, but it later promoted the neutralization of Southeast Asia while establishing ties with China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Cuba and strengthening relations with the former USSR and other East European states. Links with its traditional allies, including the United States, remained strong in the course of this transition. Relations with the United Kingdom were strained in the early 1980s, after the British imposed surcharges on foreign students attending universities in the United Kingdom and issued new regulations reducing opportunities for foreign takeovers of British-owned companies. Malaysia agreed to drop its "buy British last" campaign in 1983 after the United Kingdom expanded scholarship opportunities for Malaysian students. In 1986 there was some friction with Singapore because of its improved relations with Israel. Malaysia shares the anti-Zionist ideology of the Arab League countries.
Malaysia in the new millennium has been building better relations with its neighbors. Malaysia has cooperated with the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a 23-member Asian security network, helping to reduce tensions over the disputed Spratley Islands in the South China Sea. Malaysia also seeks increased economic integration in Southeast Asia. In 1990, Prime Minister Mahathir proposed the creation of an East Asian Economic Caucus, an idea that was initially regarded with skepticism, but was subsequently taken up by the ASEAN+3 group (the ten ASEAN members plus China, Japan, and South Korea), as a way of strengthening financial and trade ties between those states.