US, Indonesia pledge to defend South China Sea in “strategic dialogue”
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday announced the launch of a “strategic dialogue” with Indonesia, and Washington said the two countries have pledged to work together on issues such as the defense of the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Meeting in Washington, Blinken and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also pledged to work together against COVID-19 and the climate crisis and to strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties, the State Department said.
Indonesia is the largest country and economy of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a bloc that Washington sees as key to its efforts to resist the China’s growing influence in Asia.
The two sides agreed to establish a “strategic partnership” in 2015, but Blinken told reporters as he stood with Marsudi that the dialogue was only really engaged now.
“Indonesia is a strong democratic partner of the United States; we are working together on so many different fronts, ”he said, adding that Washington appreciates Jakarta’s strong voice in ASEAN.
Marsudi told Blinken that a strong partnership with Indonesia would be “a key asset for your growing engagement in the region”.
She said the United States was one of ASEAN’s important partners in implementing its Indo-Pacific perspectives.
“It is my hope, and that of the Indonesian government, to advance bilateral relations with the United States, from health to the SDGs, from education to the economy and beyond,” she said. stated, using the acronym for Sustainable Development Goals.
A State Department statement on the meeting said the two stages discussed for pandemic recovery. Blinken noted that Washington had donated 8 million doses of the vaccine to Indonesia and that the countries were also working together on oxygen and therapeutics.
Marsudi and Blinken also “expressed common views on maritime security” and pledged to “defend freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and continue collaboration on cybersecurity and cybercrime prevention”, indicates the press release.
He said Blinken praised Indonesia’s efforts to support the peace negotiations in Afghanistan and stressed the importance of putting ASEAN member Myanmar back on the path to democracy.
On the climate, the two sides “discussed opportunities for Indonesia to increase its climate ambition,” he said, without further details.
The talks took place before Blinken took part in a virtual meeting with ASEAN, several of whose members have competing claims in the South China Sea with those of China. Beijing regards almost the entire strategic waterway as its own and has strengthened its forces there.
Blinken is joining a week of meetings with his regional counterparts, as part of a US effort to show seriousness in engaging with Southeast Asia to push back China. Read more
Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said there had been little time to develop the strategic partnership agreement reached under the Obama administration before the inauguration of former President Donald Trump.
“Agreements like this were not a priority for his administration,” he said of an agreement spanning multiple areas, including defense, energy and more economic ties. wide.
“Hammering out the details in all of these areas will take some time and will require considerable attention from senior officials in foreign policy, defense and economics.”
Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo, Daphne Psaledakis, Simon Lewis and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chris Reese, Sandra Maler and Dan Grebler
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