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Indonesia president to visit White House next month
[WASHINGTON] Indonesia's Joko Widodo will visit Washington and the White House on October 26 for a crucial first visit since he became president last year.
The trip will be an opportunity for Mr Joko, who came to power in October last year, to get to know President Barack Obama at a time of geopolitical tension in South East Asia.
"As leaders of two of the largest democracies in the world, the president and President Widodo will discuss plans to expand existing areas of bilateral cooperation," the White House said.
The visit comes as Mr Obama - who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia - presses for Jakarta to play a bigger role in its region, where there is nervousness about Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The world's most populous Muslim nation has long punched below its weight, struggling with domestic economic and democratic development, but Washington hopes that it will begin to set a more positive example.
"Indonesia, as everyone knows, is the world's third largest democracy," US Secretary of State John Kerry said, welcoming his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi to the State Department.
"And there are many critical issues that we share enormous concerns about. We're working very closely on any number of economic relationships," he said, praising Jakarta's role in the regional body Asean.
"Indonesia plays a critical role, with respect to the South China Sea, our concerns about climate change and other issues." Mr Kerry said Mr Joko and Mr Obama have a very similar attitude to "getting things done" and breaking bureaucratic barriers, and that he looked forward to a productive meeting next month.
"This is the best time for Indonesia and the US to sit together and discuss about the future relations between the two countries," Ms Retno told reporters before her meeting with Mr Kerry.
"Indonesia plays a very significant role in ASEAN and as the biggest Muslim-population country we can contribute a lot to create a positive situation towards peace and stability in the region and the world." Ms Retno also insisted on the importance of the extensive trade ties between Indonesia and United States.
Ties were rattled last year when documents leaked by fugitive US contractor Edward Snowden revealed that Australia, part of the US-led "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing network, had targeted Jakarta.
According to a report, which angered Indonesia, Australian spies had tried to tap the then-Indonesian leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's phones during a trade dispute with Washington.