New US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has chosen to visit Indonesia on her first overseas trip because she wants to “reach out” to the Muslim world, a spokesman said Thursday.
Indonesia is “an important country for the United States” as the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters who asked why she included Indonesia on her visit to Asia.
“And the secretary feels it’s important that we need to reach out and reach out early to Indonesia,” Wood said.
Clinton, who will also visit Japan, South Korea and China, will meet senior Indonesian officials in Jakarta to discuss “the close and growing partnership with Indonesia and prospectives on common interests in southeast Asia,” he said.
In his inauguration speech on January 20, President Barack Obama vowed to seek a “new way forward” with the Muslim world “based on mutual interest and respect,” after eight rocky years under his predecessor George W. Bush.
Faced with a set of daunting challenges across the Muslim world –from the Palestinian territories to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan –Obama set a new tone and promised a fresh balance in using diplomatic, military and other forms of power.
Security in post 9/11 America, he pledged, will not come at the expense of abandoning the US ideals of liberty and the rule of law, which critics say were trampled by the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”
Today’s generation knew that US “security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint,” Obama said.
After he was elected on November 4, the first black US president promised to make a major speech in a Muslim capital, but Wood gave no direct answer when asked if Clinton would lay the groundwork for a trip to Indonesia by Obama who spent part of his childhood growing up there.
“I don’t know if, when the president will be travelling to Indonesia,” Wood said. “Obviously… the president will be very interested in the outcome of… this trip, not just to Indonesia, but to the other countries that I outlined.”
The son of a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, Obama was raised in Hawaii and moved to Indonesia when he was six after his divorced mother remarried an Indonesian.
In his memoirs he recalled his time in Indonesia as the “bounty of a young man’s life.”
With more than 200 million people, Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world and has had a love-hate relationship with the United States since the 1960s, marked by US support for military dictator Suharto, who was ousted in 1998.
Many Indonesians opposed president George W. Bush administration’s “war on terror” and its approach to foreign relations, and are hoping Obama brings a new style to US leadership with an emphasis on dialogue and understanding.