Obama to Intensify Indonesia Experience During Trip

SINGAPORE
The Bali Times

THE United States is not in competition with China for Asian hearts and minds, a senior US official has said, but is keen to deepen ties with Indonesia.

President Barack Obama has twice delayed trips to Indonesia but the US will not lose ground to China in the region, Kurt Campbell told Singapore’s Straits Times.

“We do not see this as a zero sum competition for hearts and minds with China,” said Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

“Indeed, most countries in Southeast Asia would clearly articulate that desire to avoid this kind of narrow competition between the two states.”

President Barack Obama’s administration has made Indonesia one of its top diplomatic priorities, pointing to its moderate brand of Islam and rapid democratisation since the 1990s.

But the US leader was forced to postpone his March trip – already delayed once – until June to push through his ambitious healthcare reform agenda from Washington.

“We’d like very much to see a profoundly deeper relationship between the US and Indonesia that perhaps would fall along the kind of progression we’ve seen between the US and India that began about a decade ago,” Campbell said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Indonesia in April, fuelling speculation about a race for influence between Washington and Beijing in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has a population of more than 230 million people and is seen as a key potential market and trading partner for both powers.

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.

During his rescheduled Indonesia trip, Obama is also due to visit Bali, where he previously spent time writing his memoirs.

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