Press Releases: Remarks on Secretary Kerry’s Trip to Jakarta, Indonesia

MODERATOR: Okay. So for the purposes of the transcript, this is a background briefing to preview the Secretary’s trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, and to run through the bilats he’ll have while he’s there. With that, want to give a quick overview?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, all right. Well, thanks very much. The Secretary is heading up a high-level presidential delegation to the inauguration of the new Indonesian President, Joko Widodo. That is a reflection of the tremendous importance of Indonesia as a major emerging power, as the third-largest democracy, the largest democratic Muslim majority – in fact, the largest Muslim-majority country. And I will ask my colleague to speak in a little more depth about Indonesia, the relationship, and the significance of the election of Widodo, or Jokowi.

But the fact the Secretary is traveling this far at this time is also a reflection of the importance that the U.S. places on the Asia-Pacific region and of Southeast Asia specifically. By my count, this is Secretary Kerry’s 8th trip to Asia in the last 20 months.

MODERATOR: 20 months.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Just three weeks ago in New York, during the UN General Assembly, he met with all 10 ASEAN foreign ministers. And the following week in Washington, he hosted consultations with the foreign minister of Burma, with the foreign minister of Vietnam. And, of course, recently in August he traveled to Naypyitaw, Burma to participate in the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit ministerial, and the U.S.-ASEAN ministerial. And earlier this year in February, you will recall that he was in Jakarta for bilateral consultations as part of our comprehensive partnership, and that’s where he also gave a very significant speech on climate. When you combine that with the visit of President Obama to the region in April and the fact that he will be back again next month, there should be no doubt of the energy and determination with which the United States is pursuing the strategic priority of rebalance to Asia.

While the Secretary is in Jakarta for the inauguration, he will also hold a round of bilateral meetings with Asian leaders. He will meet with the new President of Indonesia, Jokowi. He will meet with the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib. He will meet with the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong. He will meet with the sultan of Brunei. He will meet with the prime minister of Australia. And he will meet with – in the absence of the president, the foreign minister of the Philippines.

So in that group, what we’re seeing are three important Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei; two other countries with significant Muslim populations, Singapore and the Philippines; and, of course, Australia, a key partner to the United States and, of course, a close ally. I think the bilateral meetings provide an opportunity for Secretary Kerry to consult, coordinate, and strategize on pressing issues of today.

I would put at the top of the list the international effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. Breaking it down, the effort to combat violent extremism, to block recruitment, and to protect against the solicitation of foreign fighters – terrorist fighters from Southeast Asia to the Middle East; to guard against the return of hardened fighters to the region, debunking and denigrating extremist propaganda, blocking illicit terrorist financing, and so on.

It’s also an opportunity for the Secretary to engage more deeply on the global effort to contain and to deal with the Ebola virus threat. He will discuss global efforts to protect against the spread of the disease, including to Asia, as well as continue the bilateral discussion that is already underway with each of these governments about what they can do to help the global effort through the UN and other means, as well as support the U.S.-led efforts.

I expect the Secretary to discuss climate change and environment issues, which are of tremendous importance in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, as they are to the United States. And these meetings provide an important opportunity also for the Secretary to consult on the agenda of the upcoming EAS – East Asia Summit leaders’ meeting, including and particularly maritime issues and the territorial disputes that have challenged regional stability. Several of the countries he will meet with, such as Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia, are themselves claimants to territory in the South China Sea. Others, like Indonesia and Singapore, have long played an important leadership role in the effort to find a peaceful and legally compliant resolution of those claims.

Let’s see. Of course, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore are also members of the TPP negotiations. That’s a topic that is likely to be touched on. Malaysia, I would flag for you, has just won a seat on the UN Security Council circa 2015 and will take over from Burma in 2015 as the next chair of ASEAN. So there’s a lot of good work to be done in the meeting with Prime Minister Najib.

The bottom line is that there is a packed, high-level schedule for the Secretary on the sidelines of an event that marks a very important watershed in democratic development of a hugely important emerging power and Muslim nation with an admirable tradition of tolerance, pluralism, and moderation. So let me turn it over to my colleague to talk about Indonesia and Jokowi.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Thanks. Well, as my colleague said, this election that just took place in Indonesia and this inauguration is – marks a continuation in a pretty remarkable transformation that Indonesia’s over – undertaken over the last 15 years from dictatorship through major crisis to a vibrant democracy. And the – 10, 15 years ago, there was much concern about the stability of the country, its economy, the possibility of it being a major front in the war on terrorism. And while it still has plenty of challenges, it’s made remarkable progress. And as the world’s fourth-largest country, third-largest democracy, and largest Muslim-majority nation, its role is hugely important. And it’s increasingly important player in the region on foreign policy, on ASEAN issues, East Asia Summit, and globally also a big player as a member of the G20 and one of the largest emitters in terms – for climate change purposes.

And then the elections earlier this summer in Indonesia were a good example really of good news, in the sense of about 140 million people turning out to vote, one of the largest, if not largest single-day democratic elections in the world. Peaceful, very active, tremendous transparency in the process, and a good outcome that has produced a different kind of leader now in Indonesia: someone who’s – comes from modest means, was a mayor of a midsize city in Java, and became known for being honest and reform-minded in improving the quality of governance, was subsequently elected governor of Jakarta really based on that record and that platform, and has won quite a following in the country as someone who’s focused on improving the quality of governance. And Indonesia’s a difficult country to govern, so he’ll have plenty of challenges. But if he can achieve even reasonable success in improving the quality of governance, it’s – it’ll be hugely important for Indonesia, but also, I think, a good example for other places in the world that could benefit from better governance.

MODERATOR: All right. David?

QUESTION: Yeah, well, thank you very much for doing this. On that point you made about Indonesia playing an active role in foreign policy, are you confident that that’s going to continue under the new government? There’s some suggestion that Jokowi’s preoccupations are going to be domestic, and I don’t – I think we still don’t have a foreign minister. I mean, who’s going to be taking the lead role that you can see there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think there’s a lot still to know on that front, since he hasn’t taken office, hasn’t named a foreign minister. Certainly, every indication is he’s, naturally enough, going to pay a lot of attention to domestic issues. What we see in the region, though, is a pretty steady calling for Indonesia to remain active in foreign affairs. And certainly, we expect Secretary Kerry and Jokowi to talk about that and the role – and the important role that Indonesia can play. So I don’t want to make any predictions on behalf of the new Indonesian president, but I think he can do a lot on domestic and still keep Indonesia active in the region.

QUESTION: Are there any specific asks that you have of any of the people that you’re going to bilats on any of the issues that you mentioned?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. We’re working with a number of the countries bilaterally to further develop their support for the broad coalition-based efforts along some of the important lines of effort. Most of the Southeast Asian countries the Secretary will be meeting with co-sponsored or have otherwise supported the UN Security Council resolutions. Many of them, including Indonesia and Malaysia, have begun refining and instituting regulations and legal mechanisms that will allow them better to protect themselves and their countries against the threat of radical jihadism, both outgoing and incoming. And I know that the Secretary will talk through areas where we believe and we hope that the individual countries can do more and cooperate more to ensure that, in the first instance, Southeast Asia remains immune to the proselytizing efforts of ISIL; and secondly, that these countries and assist effectively beyond what they’ve done already to rebut the false ideology, to support humanitarian efforts, and to upgrade the international efforts on, for example, countering terrorist financing and recruitment that are very important.

Similarly, on Ebola, there have already been a number of positive contributions of materiel and equipment. But we will certainly expect the Secretary to ask each of his interlocutors to do more to cooperate in the global effort to keep our – keep the world safe and to block the spread of Ebola.

MODERATOR: Go ahead, David.

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official One], on that issue of terrorism financing, is he – will the Secretary be pressing the Indonesians on that? I gather that the Indonesians are not party to the UN task force on financing. I mean, is that a particular concern?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah, I can address that. So we’ve been working with Indonesia – we and others in the FATF have been working with Indonesia over the last two years as they’ve begun to move to implement freezing of assets. And they’ve made some progress on that. I think the hope is that they will make more. And so it’s part of an ongoing effort with not only the United States but other countries in FATF to encourage the Indonesians to do all that they need to do to meet their obligations under the UN.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I would just add that Malaysia has already taken action to freeze the assets of individuals found to be involved in terrorist activities, and we hope and expect to see greater legal action taken by other countries in the region along similar lines.

MODERATOR: Any other questions?

QUESTION: Well, I would just ask, with the Malaysians, is anything – they’re missing a couple planes.


QUESTION: With the Malaysians, is there anything new on either of the plane issues?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I haven’t heard anything new recently.

QUESTION: Is that something that still comes up between the Secretary and the Malaysians?


QUESTION: The first one especially.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, the – with the Australians in the lead, there is a renewed effort to survey as part of the search for Malaysian Air 370. And that’s an effort that, of course, the U.S. has been very deeply involved in and contributed to. So we’re interested and hopeful, and it could well be something that gets touched on in conversations either with Malaysia or Australia.

MODERATOR: Anything else, David?

QUESTION: No, thank you.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you both.