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Indonesia: U.S. Secretary of State Clinton’s Asia visit heralds increased U.S. presence in the region

Updated On: Feb 23, 2009

On her first trip as Washington's chief diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton’s Asia trip started in Japan and made her second stop in Indonesia, home to the biggest Muslim population in the world.

On visiting Southeast Asia, the former first lady said "We believe the U.S. must have ... a strong presence in this region," after a meeting at the headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The U.S. has cited Indonesia as a model for the Muslim world, due to its liberal democracy and successful efforts in confronting radical Islamic organizations

Clinton announced that Washington is working with Jakarta to re-establish a Peace Corps program in Indonesia that was frozen in the 1960s. The U.S. also wants to expand educational and scientific exchanges.

Clinton’s visit signals a change in U.S. foreign policy vis-à-vis the region; "Your visit shows the seriousness of the U.S. to end its diplomatic isolation in the region," Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told Mrs. Clinton.

Indonesia expressed its willingness to engage with the U.S. and act as a dialogue facilitator with the Muslim world. Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also urged U.S. leadership on climate change issues.

"The president underlined that a global consensus (on climate change) cannot be achieved without U.S. leadership," presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told a news conference.

Although there is no forthcoming date for President Obama to visit the region, Clinton's visit to Indonesia highlights President Barack Obama's desire to forge a better U.S. relationship with the Muslim world. This comes at a time where many of the policies of former president George W. Bush's administration, including the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, were deeply unpopular.

The Obama administration also showed it was ready to get down to business, bringing up the issue of Myanmar. Clinton said that the U.S. would cooperate with Indonesia to find new ways to engage with Myanmar, remarking that "Imposing sanction has not influenced the junta ... reaching out and trying to engage has not influenced them either."

Sources:

The Wall Street Journa, Clinton Says U.S. Will Expand Southeast Asia Ties , 19 Feb 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123496355184310945.html?mod=googlenews_w...

Reuters, Indonesia tells Clinton US must lead on climate change, 19 Feb 2009,
http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCandidateFeed1/idUSJAK207049

All Headline News, Clinton Arrives In Jakarta; Criticizes Myanmar's Military Junta, 18 Feb 2009, http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7014127715







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