Jakarta. The United States is committed to increase cooperation with Indonesia through strategic partnerships, as a group of its high-level officials visit Indonesia this week, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Monday (22/01).
"The US wants to strengthen its relations with Indonesia… Mattis’ visit is part of their commitment [to do so] within the context of [our] strategic partnership," Retno told reporters after her meeting with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
In 2015, the two countries upgraded their relationship to a strategic partnership and agreed to extend cooperation to issues of regional and global significance.
Mattis’ trip to Southeast Asia, which also includes Vietnam, took place after the US unveiled its new defense strategy last Friday, which is now focused on addressing "great power competition."
The new strategy addressed China’s approach in "using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea" and said that both China and Russia posed challenges to US national security.
Mattis is scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, Chief Security Minister Wiranto and Indonesian Military chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto on Tuesday.
Acting assistant secretary of US State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Susan A. Thornton, is also scheduled to arrive in Indonesia on Tuesday, in a visit to start implementing Indonesia-US strategic partnership, Retno said.
Retno and Mattis also discussed regional architecture for the Indo-Pacific region, during which the former stressed the importance of an open, transparent and inclusive Indo-Pacific based on a spirit of cooperation and dialogue.
"As a country, we’re always open to discussion and communication with others, and Indonesia stands ready to talk with any country, including the United States, on how we can develop the Indo-Pacific concept," Retno said.
The US's new defense objectives also include "maintaining favorable regional balances of power" in various regions, including in Indo-Pacific.
Indonesia's foreign policy priorities this year include contributing to develop policy architecture in the Indo-Pacific region by fostering strategic cooperation and dialogues, which will ensure peace and stability amid more geopolitical changes.
According to Retno, bilateral relations between Indonesia and the United States are rooted in a habit of dialogue.
"We are consistently in communication [and] comparing our notes on strategic issues. We’re not always on the same page, but at least they understand where we stand and we find out where they stand, therefore we can try to meet halfway if it’s at all possible," Retno said.
On the issue of Palestine, Indonesia reiterated its position during Monday’s meeting on the need for a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
"We also asked the United States to reconsider their plans to withhold funding for the UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency]," Retno said.
Last week, the United States announced plans to provide $60 million to the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, but would withhold $65 million.
During the meeting, Retno was told that aid focused on education, health and necessities for women and children will be maintained and will not be affected from the cut in funding.
However, UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krähenbühl said in a statement that the announced contribution from the US is "dramatically below past levels" and will significantly affect its operations. According to the UN agency, the US contributed over $350 million last year.