U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Jakarta on a 48-hour visit that includes talks with leaders about U.S.-Indonesia collaboration as well as a speech about the Biden administration’s wider policy aims for the region.
Blinken met Monday with Indonesian President Joko Widodo as the top U.S. diplomat made the first of three stops in southeast Asia this week.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken and Widodo discussed ways to boost the U.S.-Indonesia relationship, as well as “address challenges to democracy and human rights, as well as the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The secretary congratulated the president on Indonesia’s G-20 presidency and expressed support for Indonesia’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific as the world’s third-largest democracy and a strong proponent of the rules-based international order,” Price said in a statement, adding that Blinken also “reiterated the U.S. commitment to ASEAN centrality.”
Blinken also plans to go to Malaysia and Thailand in the coming days, seeking to reinforce ties with allies and promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
China’s activities in the South China Sea have led to tensions. China vies with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam for sovereignty over parts of the resource-rich sea, which stretches from Hong Kong to Borneo.
Last month, China pledged to avoid dominance in the South China Sea, but experts said the pledge comes too late to convince smaller Southeast Asian claimants to the strategic waterway after years of Chinese expansion.
Blinken is scheduled to give an address Tuesday in Jakarta about the administration’s approach to the Indo-Pacific region.
Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are members of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
(State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching and Ralph Jennings contributed to this report.)