Govt Voices Understanding over Obama Visit Delay

JAKARTA

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reacted with understanding after US President Barack Obama delayed a visit scheduled for this week.

A presidential spokesman said Yudhoyono, known as SBY, had an inkling that the fierce healthcare debate in Washington would get in the way of the long-awaited trip, which was due to take place from Tuesday to Thursday.

The White House announced that the trip, which has already been postponed once and which was scheduled also to include Guam and Australia, would now take place in June.

“President SBY already had a feeling about this. He has read the situation and it’s proven to be true,” spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told reporters.

“The president can of course understand because we have monitored the situation in Washington DC. We can see how tight the political process is regarding the health reform bill.”

He said that under the circumstances Yudhoyono believed it would be better to make the trip in June, when Obama would be more relaxed.

“President SBY notified him (Obama) that it’s better to visit in June as he can bring along his wife and daughters and the political situation there will have cooled down,” Djalal said.

The US president spent part of his childhood in Indonesia in the late 1960s, an experience he has said helped shape his view of the world.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, meanwhile, announced that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao would visit Indonesia in April.

The announcement fuelled speculation about a race for influence between Washington and Beijing in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia is the region’s biggest economy with a population of more than 230 million people, and is seen as a key potential market and trading partner for both powers.

But Natalegawa played down the timing of the visits.

“We have very good relationships with China and the US,” he said.

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