Thursday, 22 June, 2017

US VP in Indonesia sends conciliatory message to Islamic world

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence left is seated with Indonesia's President Joko Pence shows why Southeast Asia counts, for US and the world
Nellie Chapman | 21 April, 2017, 17:58

Mr Pence, the first senior United States administration official to visit Australia since the Republicans' shock election wins past year, will meet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney to discuss regional security and the North Korean nuclear threat, as part of efforts to reassure America's allies in Asia and smooth over relations with the federal government.

Pence's visit comes at the end of an extensive tour of Asia where regional security concerns and trade have been top of the agenda.

Indonesia is on President Donald Trump's trade hit list, and a USA company that operates the world's largest copper mine in the Indonesian province of Papua is in a protracted dispute with the Indonesian government.

US Vice-President Mike Pence will seek to reassure Australian business that the United States economy is not being closed to outsiders when he visits Sydney as part of a regional tour created to reassure allies they are valued in Washington.

As leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has voiced worries about Trump's immigration policy, which critics say is biased against Muslims.

He slipped off his shoes before being guided around the mosque, which is also the biggest in Southeast Asia, accompanied by his wife and two daughters in headscarves, as well as Istiqlal's grand imam.

After his talks with Widodo, Pence also said the United States was committed to building a stronger defense partnership with Indonesia to combat terrorism, and guaranteeing freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Indonesian and Chinese vessels have recently clashed. The pair spoke at a news conference after their meeting.

Pence said the US would continue working with Indonesia to combat terrorism, and said the country's form of Islam should serve as an example to other nations.

The official predicted that military tensions in the South China Sea and on the Korean peninsula would feature prominently in discussions, as would the general security environment in east Asia according to the ABC.

As well as meeting with Australian officials, Mr Pence and his delegation are expected to visit Sydney's tourist sites, including taking a cruise on Sydney Harbour.

Afterwards, he met religious leaders from various faiths, including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others.

Pence's first engagement in Indonesia was morning tea with Jokowi at the presidential palace.

Over the past six months, Indonesia has wrestled with mining giant Freeport McMoRan, demanding the company divests 51 per cent of its shares in its Papua-based gold and copper mine, as well as demanding Google settle unpaid taxes of more than $400million. Jakarta also scrubbed JP Morgan from its list of primary bond dealers after what was deemed a negative research report.

The vice president is on a tour across Asia, where he's looking to reinforce a number of USA partnerships amid President Trump's rhetoric calling for a shakeup in US foreign policy and a re-evaluation of global trade agreements.