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How rocky US-Malaysia relations may be impacting the search for Flight 370

Malaysian authorities have been reluctant to accept large-scale American assistance. That might be down to history.

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This picture taken from aboard a flying Soviet-made AN-26 used as a search aircraft by Vietnamese Air Force to look for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, March 9, 2014. (Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images)

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 spread to 26 countries on Monday.

There's a chance rocky relations between Malaysia and the United States may be hampering American efforts to help with the search.

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Despite US offers of more help, only two FBI agents are present in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, where local officials are scouring the records of dozens of passengers and two pilots for clues into the jetliner's disappearance on March 8.

Speaking anonymously, American officials told The New York Times they believed Malaysian authorities didn't want to look like they can't handle things on their own.

The House Homeland Security Committee's Chairman Michael McCaul was more explicit, saying, "It's frustrating because of the lack of knowledge and because we're dealing with the Malaysian government and we're not getting a lot of info."

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It could also have something to do with historically chilly relations between the United States and Malaysia, which were incredibly strained while Mahathir bin Mohamad served as Malaysia's prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

Many Malaysians are moderate and love American culture, but only 34 percent approve of US leadership, according to the 2012 US Global Leadership Report.

That's likely due to American policies in other Muslim-majority nations. Malaysian politicians are known to rail against the United States as "imperialist" and "Zionist" in public, according to GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn.

However, a spokesman for the US Seventh Fleet said the two governments have been cooperating on the latest efforts. "You have the Malaysian government, the US government and other governments using military information, civilian satellite information," Cmdr. William Marks said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

That could be in part due to the current prime minister, Najib Razak. He pointed out that Malaysia had shared its sensitive military radar data with other countries in an effort to locate the missing plane. "We have put our national security second to the search for the missing plane," he said.

With day 10 of the search approaching, one thing is clear: Everyone is frustrated.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/140317/how-rocky-us-malaysia-relations-impacting-search-malaysia-airlines-flight-370