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South China Sea issue listed in Kerry’s agenda in Jakarta

Publication Date : 11-02-2014

 

Amid increased tensions in the East China Sea and growing security anxiety in the South China Sea, US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel to Seoul on Thursday as a part of his Asian tour that includes visits to Beijing, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi.

He will arrive in Jakarta on Sunday from Beijing and will stay here until Monday. He will be received by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki announced that Kerry “will reiterate that the United States values Indonesia’s growing leadership on global challenges and looks forward to continue working with Indonesia on issues, including climate change, security, democracy, regional integration and human rights.

“He will co-chair the Joint Commission Meeting under the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership. He will also underline the importance of our engagement with Asia’s multilateral institutions when he meets the Asean secretary-general,” Psaki said in a statement.

The US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, under the auspices of which the two ministers will chair the Joint Commission meeting, is a forum established in 2010.

“The forum is expected to review a wide range of regional and multilateral issues affecting US and Indonesian interests, including security, trade and investment, climate change and the environment, education, energy and democracy and civil society,” a Foreign Ministry official told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Besides bilateral issues, Kerry and Marty are expected to discuss regional and international issues, from the South China Sea to Syria. “It is logical that when we talk about regional issues, this [the South China Sea] is included, and when we talk about international issues, Syria will be touched upon,” added the official who declined to be named as he was not authorized to talk about the matter.

Ten-member Asean has raised concerns over China’s assertiveness in its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims with China.

US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake said recently that the US supported Indonesia’s active efforts in defusing tensions in the region, particularly in forging a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Reuters reports that during his visit to Beijing and Seoul, Kerry’s talks are expected to focus on an air-defence zone China declared last year covering territory also claimed by South Korea and Japan, including uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. He is also expected to discuss concerns about North Korea’s nuclear programme.

This is the fifth trip to Asia for Kerry in his role as secretary of state in the past year.

Kerry has faced criticism for the amount of time he has devoted to peace efforts in the Middle East rather than the rebalancing of the US military and economic focus toward Asia in reaction to the growing clout of China.

On Friday, Kerry met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington and stressed the US’ commitment to the defence of Japan and stability in the Asia-Pacific region against the backdrop of Chinese territorial claims.

He said the United States and Japan were committed to closer security collaboration and reiterated that Washington “neither recognises nor accepts” the air-defence zone China declared in the East China Sea and would not change how it conducted operations there.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei attacked Kerry’s remarks on Saturday, saying China’s air-defence zone was fully in line with international law and norms.

“We urge the US side to stop making irresponsible remarks so as not to harm regional stability and the China-US relationship,” Hong said.

 

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