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Archive for February 18th, 2009|Daily archive page

Hillary Clinton reaches out to Indonesia

In foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, news, Politics on February 18, 2009 at 5:46 pm

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, accompanied by her Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, in Jakarta on Wednesday.

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Hillary’s message was warmly received by the country’s officials.

She said her choice of Asia for her first overseas trip as President Barack Obama’s top diplomat was “no accident” and a sign of the new administration’s desire for broader and deeper relations with the continent on regional and global issues. Indonesia and southeast Asia often felt overlooked by the George W Bush administration.

With President Barack Obama wishing to “reach out to the entire world”, Mrs Clinton said Indonesia would be an important partner in that effort.

“Certainly Indonesia, being the largest Muslim nation in the world, the third-largest democracy, will play a leading role in the promotion of that shared future,” she said.

Mrs Clinton, who arrived from a stop in Japan praised the country for its multi-ethnic democracy and efforts to fight terrorism while respecting human rights. Today [thurs] she heads to South Korea and then China.

Indonesia has powerful personal ties for President Barack Obama, who spent four years in Jakarta as a child. Among those who turned out at the airport to welcome Mrs Clinton were 44 children from his former primary school, singing traditional folk songs and waving Indonesian and US flags.

“It gave him an insight into not only this diverse and vibrant culture, but also the capacity for people with different backgrounds to live harmoniously together,” said Mrs Clinton.

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Indonesian students wave to journalists upon her arrival at Halim Perdanakusuma airport in Jakarta, Indonesia on Feb. 18, 2009. Clinton moved to boost U.S. ties with the world’s most populous Muslim nation and its neighbors, pledging a new American willingness to work with and listen to Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Tatan Syuflana-AP

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Madame Secretary Clinton to build ties in Jakarta

In Asia Tour, foreign policy, Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State on February 18, 2009 at 6:42 am

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on the second leg of her four-nation Asian tour.

hillary-jakartaDuring her brief visit, Mrs Clinton is scheduled to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other senior officials.

They will discuss a range of issues including education and climate change.

But Mrs Clinton’s visit is also being carefully watched for signs of a new US policy towards the Muslim world.

This is in some ways the most intriguing part of her Asian tour.

The symbolism is powerful – her first visit to a Muslim majority country; a stable, democratic country, half a world away from the Middle East.

And in a sign of the breadth of expectations Mrs Clinton will face here, her welcoming party included both senior government officials, and students from US President Barack Obama’s old school.

‘Mutual respect’

Mr Obama spent some of his childhood in Jakarta and there is a lot of goodwill among Indonesians towards his new government.

He has already made it clear he wants a new kind of relationship with the Muslim world, based on “mutual interests and mutual respect”.

Mrs Clinton’s visit will be carefully watched for signs of that new engagement – and also for signs that Washington wants to develop closer ties with South East Asia.

Indonesian officials have privately said that is exactly what they are hoping for; that they would welcome closer co-operation with the new US administration.

Relations between the two governments grew markedly under former President George W Bush, with the normalisation of military ties and cooperation on counter-terrorism, following a spate of bomb attacks by Islamist groups here.

But they deteriorated among the population in general, as a result of US policies in the Middle East, and its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

That is still what defines most attitudes here.

Many people say they welcome the symbolism of Mrs Clinton’s visit, and are pleased with President Obama’s election, but that they do not expect too much real change.