U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Aug. 3 that the Biden administration is launching “strategic dialogue” with Indonesia. The two countries have pledged to cooperate on issues such as safeguarding freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to contain communist China’s expansion in the region.
Indonesia is the largest country and biggest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Washington believes that ASEAN plays a key role in curbing the Chinese communist regime’s expansion in Asia.
Although the two countries established a “strategic partnership” in 2015, this is their first strategic dialogue.
Blinken met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 3 to stress the importance of the partnership between the two countries.
“The U.S.-Indonesia strategic partnership is based on a fundamental belief in democracy, economic growth driven by innovation, and a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific,” the State Department said in a statement.
Blinken expressed to Marsudi, “Indonesia is a strong democratic partner to the United States; we are working together on so many different fronts.”
Marsudi told Blinken that “the strong partnership between Indonesia and the U.S. will be a key asset for your increasing engagement in the region. And the U.S. is one of the important partners for ASEAN in the implementation of ASEAN outlook from the Indo-Pacific.”
According to the statement, Marsudi and Blinken also “expressed shared views on maritime security” and committed to “defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and continuing collaboration in cybersecurity and preventing cybercrime.”
The meeting is part of U.S. efforts to increase its support of allies in Southeast Asia to push back against years of aggressive advances by the Chinese communist regime, marked by an increasing Chinese military presence in the disputed waters.
It comes as Blinken is scheduled to participate in a virtual meeting with ASEAN members. Several have competing water territory claims with China in the South China Sea. The Chinese regime sees almost all of the strategic waterway as its territory, based on the nine-dash-line historical claim, as opposed to the Southeast Asian countries’ exclusive economic zone claims.
Meanwhile, congresswoman and vice-chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee Elaine Luria recently pointed out that China has fortified artificial reefs and sent militia vessels into the disputed waters. The regime has also increased its aggressive tactics against Taiwan and threatened commercial maritime transportations in the area. She warned that the behaviors of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea are trying to create new chokepoints.
A senior White House official told Reuters on Tuesday that during Vice President Kamala Harris’s planned visit to Vietnam and Singapore at the end of this month, she will focus on the issues of defending international rules in the South China Sea, strengthening U.S. regional leadership, and expanding security cooperation with the Southeast Asian allies.
Washington is seeking to build greater international cooperation in countering China’s growing global influence.