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US sees Indonesia as a key player in S. China Sea issue: expert

Publication Date : 03-09-2012

 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Jakarta today is expected to highlight Indonesia’s leading role in harmonising Asean

 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Jakarta today is expected to highlight Indonesia’s leading role in Asean, especially in moderating tensions in the South China Sea between China and several Asean member nations, an expert has said.

“The US sees Indonesia as a key and important player in the South China Sea issue. Indonesia is not a claimant, but has put a lot of effort in harmonising Asean,” University of Indonesia international relations expert Andi Widjajanto said.

Andi also said that it would be in the US interest to see a consolidated Southeast Asia when facing an assertive China, especially following President Barack Obama administration’s efforts to “pivot” US foreign policy to Asia, after long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Andi said that the Clinton visit would not be related to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec). “The visit will be aimed at discussing the growing tensions in the South China Sea. On such a very short visit, I don’t see any urgent Indonesia-US issues being discussed, except for frictions in the South China Sea,” he said.

As part of her six nation Asia-Pacific tour, Clinton is expected to stop in Jakarta on Monday. Indonesia is her second destination, after Cook Islands. Her itinerary will include stops in China, Timor Leste, Brunei Darussalam and Russia for the Apec forum in Vladivostok.

Victoria Nuland, the spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in a statement on the department’s website that Clinton “will discuss with senior Indonesian officials the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership and our respective engagements on regional global issues”.

Clinton is set to hold bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on Monday evening.

Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said that Clinton would meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday before her departure for Beijing.

Asean member nations have been sharply divided on China’s expansion and conflicting claims in the South China Sea. In Phnom Penh in July, Asean failed to reach consensus on how to handle the disputes, resulting in the first time the association failed to issue a closing communique in its 45-year history.

On other regional issues, Clinton is expected to discuss upcoming plans for the East Asia Summit (EAS) and Indonesia’s approach to critical issues such as building institutions like the EAS and the Asean Regional Forum.

Bilaterally, the ministers are expected to discuss preparations for an upcoming joint commission meeting in Washington later this month.

The joint commission is an annual forum formed after the launch of RI-US Comprehensive Partnership in 2010. The forum, chaired by the ministers, is expected to review a wide range regional and multilateral issues affecting US and Indonesian interests.

International human rights watchdogs, meanwhile, have urged Clinton to raise concerns about the plight of religious minorities when meeting with Indonesian officials.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Indonesia had failed to adequately address the increasing incidence of violence against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadiyah followers, Christians and Shia Muslims in Java and Sumatra.

“Clinton should press the Indonesian government to take concrete steps to address the rising religious intolerance,” the group’s Asia advocacy director, John Sifton, stated in a release received by The Jakarta Post yesterday.

 

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