US Secretary of State John Kerry arriving at Halim Airport this morning. Credit: Coconuts Jakarta
US Secretary of State touched down in Indonesia this morning with a high-level delegation of US diplomats to attend the inauguration of Joko Widodo as Indonesia’s 7th president. But the visit is not purely of a congratulatory nature – Kerry is also planning to get Jokowi and other Asian leaders to pledge their assistance in combating the growing threat of the Islamic State and ebola.
During his brief one-day stop in Jakarta, Kerry will meet not just with Jokowi but also a number of leaders from the region. According to a briefing from the US Department of State on Kerry’s visit, “While the Secretary is in Jakarta for the inauguration, he will also hold a round of bilateral meetings with Asian leaders. He will meet with the new President of Indonesia, Jokowi. He will meet with the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib. He will meet with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong. He will meet with the sultan of Brunei. He will meet with the prime minister of Australia. And he will meet with – in the absence of the president, the foreign minister of the Philippines.”
The most important item on the agenda for those meetings is talks about the extremist Islamic State. According to the briefing, a senior State Department official said, “I would put at the top of the list the international effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. Breaking it down, the effort to combat violent extremism, to block recruitment, and to protect against the solicitation of foreign fighters – terrorist fighters from Southeast Asia to the Middle East; to guard against the return of hardened fighters to the region, debunking and denigrating extremist propaganda, blocking illicit terrorist financing, and so on.”
The other global threat Kerry will discuss is the disease on everybody’s tongue (not literally of course, gross). “[These meetings will also be] an opportunity for the Secretary to engage more deeply on the global effort to contain and to deal with the Ebola virus threat. He will discuss global efforts to protect against the spread of the disease, including to Asia, as well as continue the bilateral discussion that is already underway with each of these governments about what they can do to help the global effort through the UN and other means, as well as support the U.S.-led efforts.”
Kerry traveled over 22 hours from his home in Boston to attend today’s inauguration, a sign of how important Indonesia is to the United State’s foreign policy agenda. As stated in the briefinf, “[It] is a reflection of the tremendous importance of Indonesia as a major emerging power, as the third-largest democracy, the largest democratic Muslim majority – in fact, the largest Muslim-majority country.”