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Blinken in Indonesia as U.S. seeks to shore up Southeast Asia ties By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Antony Blinken waves, as boards his airplane following the G7 international ministers summit, at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Britain December 12, 2021. Olivier Douliery /Pool through REUTERS

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By Humeyra Pamuk

JAKARTA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Indonesia on Monday, kicking off a brief Southeast Asia journey aimed toward strengthening relations with a area that has turn out to be a strategic enviornment for Washington and Beijing.

In his first Southeast Asia journey since U.S. President Joe Biden took workplace in January, Blinken met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the primary of a number of senior officers he’ll meet on a four-day tour that features stops in Malaysia and Thailand.

Blinken congratulated the Indonesian chief on his nation’s G20 presidency and expressed assist for its Indo-Pacific management position, as a “sturdy proponent of the rules-based worldwide order,” State Division spokesperson Ned Value mentioned.

“In addition they mentioned bilateral and regional cooperation to handle challenges to democracy and human rights, in addition to the local weather disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic,” Value mentioned in a press release.

Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s largest financial system and its most populous nation. It’s the third-largest democracy on the planet, and likewise house to a 3rd of its rainforests.

Its international ministry mentioned bilateral agreements can be signed concerning training, peace corps and a maritime partnership.

Blinken will ship a speech on U.S. Indo-Pacific technique on Tuesday within the capital Jakarta, amongst different occasions, earlier than conferences in Malaysia and Thailand on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Southeast Asia is a key stage for a rivalry between the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, with a heated battle for affect because the Biden administration seeks to reconnect with a area to which U.S. dedication was questioned beneath President Donald Trump.

Blinken will pursue Biden’s goal of elevating engagement with the 10-member Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc and focus on the president’s imaginative and prescient for an Indo-Pacific financial framework, a high U.S. diplomat for Asia mentioned forward of the journey.

The USA has been pushing again in opposition to Beijing’s assertiveness within the South China Sea, a conduit for $3 trillion of annual commerce, and accuses its huge coastguard fleet of bullying nations together with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia by disrupting power and fishing actions.

China claims nearly your complete sea as its personal, and has rejected U.S. actions as interference by an outdoor energy.

The Biden administration sees nearer engagement in Southeast Asia as important to its efforts to push again in opposition to China’s rising energy, however Trump’s withdrawal from a regional commerce deal in 2017 has restricted its capability to exert financial affect, whereas Beijing has sought to bolster its commerce ties.

The administration has but to spell out what precisely Biden’s envisaged financial framework will entail.

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