US Confirms Obama Will Attend Bali Summit

WASHINGTON

US President Barack Obama will participate in talks by the 18-nation East Asia Summit in Bali later this year, the State Department confirmed this week.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was travelling to Indonesia later this month partly to prepare for “President Obama’s participation for the first time in the EAS in November,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

An official in Bali said in May that the island was preparing to welcome Obama on November 19.

Bali government spokesman Ketut Teneng said US Ambassador Scot Marciel had informed the regional authorities of Obama’s intention to attend the regional strategic dialogue, which also includes China and Russia.

It will be Obama’s second official visit to Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood in the late 1960s.

During his first official trip in November last year, Obama celebrated Indonesia’s evolution from the rule of the “iron fist” to democracy and lauded his boyhood home’s spirit of tolerance as a model for Islam and the West.

Obama said Indonesia’s transformation had been mirrored in his own life, in the 40 years since he left Indonesia, as a youth who was destined to become the president of the United States.

“Indonesia is a part of me,” Obama said, recalling how his late mother had married an Indonesian man and brought her son to then-sleepy Jakarta, where he would fly kites, run in ricefields and catch dragonflies.

Indonesia is hosting November’s regional dialogue in its capacity as chair of ASEAN, the 10-nation grouping which forms the core of the broader EAS.

The United States and Russia were admitted to the 18-nation EAS last year, but Obama did not attend the leaders’ meeting in Hanoi in October, sending Clinton in his place.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is also expected to attend the summit, which closely follows meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Group of 20 rich and developing countries.

Officials in Bali, hit by deadly terror bombings in 2002 and 2005 targeting Western tourists, hope Obama’s visit will prove a tourism windfall reassuring potential travellers.

“Having world leaders meet here will show that Bali is safe. And that has an impact because some countries still have a travel warning, like Australia and America,” Indonesian Travel Association chairman Aloysius Purwa said last month.

“If Obama comes to Bali, it will change Americans’ perceptions.”

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