WASHINGTON – Leaders from the United States and Indonesia held discussions on Monday that will set the stage for US President Joe Biden‘s first in person meeting in a year with Chinese leader Xi Jinping later this week.
Mr. Biden greeted Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the White House as the two leaders prepare for a Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, where Washington hopes to reduce friction with Beijing. Mr. Biden is due to meet Mr. Xi on Wednesday.
The United States and Indonesia agreed to new cooperation in defense areas including cybersecurity, space, combined exercises and nuclear threats, the White House said. On climate, they agreed on efforts to support the electrical grid and improve air quality.
Reuters reported on Sunday that the two countries are working to advance a potential minerals partnership focused on the electric vehicle (EV) battery metal nickel, citing three people with direct knowledge of the conversations.
But the Biden administration is still concerned about environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in Indonesia and is examining how such a deal might work. The two sides will unveil a plan that will prepare the countries for negotiations on the issue, one of the US officials said.
The White House said on Monday that Mr. Biden would announce a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two sides on sustainable energy and mineral development.
INDONESIA MAKES APPEAL TO US ON GAZA
Mr. Jokowi, as the president is known, pressed Mr. Biden on steps to end Israel’s war with Hamas.
“Indonesia appeals to the US to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza. Ceasefire is a must for the sake of humanity,” Mr. Widodo said in the Oval Office at the start of talks with the US president.
Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, is the largest Muslim-majority nation. Many Muslims have been outraged by Mr. Biden‘s support for Israel after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials. Palestinian officials have said Israeli strikes have killed more than 11,000 Gaza residents.
“The president will look to ask Indonesia to a play a larger role and to assist us,” in the Middle East, a US official said, without elaborating on what such an expanded role might entail.
Like several of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is economically intertwined with China as it navigates territorial disputes with its larger neighbor and wants to avoid getting caught in the middle by hostile Washington-Beijing relations.
Jakarta and Washington formally upgraded relations to the highest diplomatic tier as part of the leaders’ meeting.
The two leaders were expected to discuss Indonesia‘s diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Myanmar, where the military took control in a 2021 coup and has been engaged in clashes with rebel alliances, one of the officials said.
“It’s going to be time soon for us to think about what our next steps are together to deal with a situation that is untenable,” the person said.
Mr. Jokowi, first elected in 2014, is constitutionally required to leave office next year after serving the maximum two terms. – Reuters