It’s Official: Obama is Headed Our Way

Agence France-Press

US President Barack Obama will make what will be an emotional trip with his family to his childhood home of Indonesia in March, and will also visit Australia, the White House announced this week.

Obama, who was known as “Little Barry” when he lived in Jakarta with his mother in the 1960s, said last year in Singapore that he was looking forward to visiting his old haunts in Indonesia.

He was invited to make the trip by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and both sides have said they plan to use Obama’s childhood ties to the country to further tighten a crucial pan-Pacific relationship.

“This trip is an important part of the president’s continuing effort to broaden and strengthen the partnerships that are necessary to advance our security and prosperity,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that Obama would inaugurate the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership during the visit, which is intended to further deepen ties between the two countries.

It is possible he will introduce his wife Michelle and their daughters Malia and Sasha to neighbourhoods he knew as a boy and also to some old school friends.

Obama’s visit will be greeted with massive expectations in Indonesia, and a comprehensive security operation in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Washington took steps last year to dampen speculation and reports in Indonesia that Obama would visit the country during his first year in office, but made a promise he would make the trip this year.

Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia after his divorced mother married an Indonesian and attended a primary school in Jakarta between 1967 and 1971.

The childhood connection and his knowledge of a few words of the Indonesian language have made him hugely popular here.

Gibbs said that Obama looked forward to discussing issues including green energy, climate change, economic recovery and non-proliferation with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

En route to Asia, Obama will meet US troops stationed in Guam, Gibbs said. Rudd and Obama have met a number of times since Obama became president last year, including in the United States, and have forged a close, and mutually admiring diplomatic relationship, especially on climate change.

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