VP Pence praises Indonesia's democratic, tolerant values

Posted April 21, 2017

President Donald Trump will attend three summits in Asia in November, Vice-President Mike Pence said during a visit to the headquarters of Asean yesterday.

At the mosque in Jakarta, Pence and his family also toured the cavernous main prayer room - which was empty during his visit but fills up with tens of thousands of worshippers during key dates in the Muslim calender - and admired the towering dome.

Washington had billed Pence's visit to Jakarta as a booster for a strategic partnership between the world's second- and third-largest democracies, but a raft of bilateral disputes with US companies could sap the goodwill from his trip.

Indonesia has a commercial superavit of some 13 billion dollars with the United States and is one of 16 countries that Trump called to investigate at the beginning of this month due to the uneven trade relations.

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

But then, as he prepared to leave for a tour of the largest mosque in Indonesia, Pence praised the largest Muslim nation in the world for embracing a more moderate and peaceful ideology.

"We want [the US] commitments to ASEAN on issues like South China Sea disputes and tensions on the Korean Peninsula", Rahmat said.

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"His goal is basically to meet with our allies and close partners in the region as part of the new administration reaching out and getting the benefit of the views and insight of our partners about the region", Mr Caruso said.

After arriving in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, Pence on Thursday held talks with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla on a range of bilateral issues.

"The president and I spoke about that very candidly and very respectfully", Pence told round table discussion with business executives on Friday in Jakarta.

Pence's visit will be the first time a U.S. Vice President has come to Australia before a President in almost 30 years.

"As the second- and third-largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values including freedom, the rule of law, human rights and religious diversity", Pence said.

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His message at each of those stops was to reassure political and business leaders that Trump's "America First" policy meant that the United States was open to foreign investment, and that his administration wanted to work with business leaders to knock down barriers for USA products.