“We discussed the situation in the South China Sea. For Indonesia, the South China Sea should be preserved as a stable and peaceful sea. International laws, especially UNCLOS 1982, must be respected and implemented. ”
This statement is similar to what the Foreign Minister has made many times, and does not suggest that Indonesia is likely to break away from its close trade and investment ties with China.
“I have encouraged US companies to invest more in Indonesia, including projects on Indonesia’s outer islands like Natuna Island,” she said. The call to invest in Natuna is not new, but it is significant given the island’s strategic importance.
In December and January, Indonesian naval and coast guard vessels faced Chinese ships that had invaded territorial waters.
In an opinion piece in the Jakarta Post China’s ambassador to Indonesia, Qiao Xian, on Wednesday emphasized the close ties and “true friendship” between the two countries, China’s position as Indonesia’s most important trading partner and, above all, the joint work on a COVID-19 vaccine that will do so ” Make Indonesia one of the first countries to be accessed [a] Vaccine”.
The Jakarta visit comes after Pompeo made stops in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to rally support for a backlash against China’s expansionist ambitions and warn of an over-reliance on Chinese investments that Sri Lanka and the Maldives already owe to have.
On Thursday evening he is supposed to speak to Ansor, the youth wing of the country’s Nahdlatul Ulama organization, a moderate Muslim movement with 90 million members, about the importance of religious freedom and plurality.
Indonesia is a secular Muslim majority nation, but has sizable Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu minorities.
Yenny Wahid, director of the Wahid Institute and senior member of the organization’s women’s wing, said the visit was strategic but cautioned not to read too much about it.
“Of course we are honored that Secretary Pompeo decided to visit Indonesia and contact our organization. I hope this leads to greater understanding between the Islamic community and President Trump’s administration.
“Some people read this visit as a way to counter the growing influence of China on the Indonesian NU community. We continue to seek relationships with both the US and China and promote understanding for all nations, ”she said.
James Massola is a Southeast Asia correspondent based in Jakarta. He was previously the chief correspondent in Canberra. He was a three-time Walkley and Quills finalist, won a Kennedy Award for Outstanding Foreign Correspondent, and is the author of The Great Cave Rescue.
Karuni Rompies is Assistant Indonesia Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
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