As the United States and China step up their rivalry in Southeast Asia, Indonesia — officially hewing to a longstanding foreign policy of nonalignment but leaning closer to Washington — represents by far the biggest prize in a region caught uneasily between China’s rise and America’s renewed engagement.
At a news conference here with his counterpart, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr. Obama said the United States was not interested in “containing” China. But a day after endorsing India’s pursuit of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in a move widely seen as an attempt to check China’s growing influence, Mr. Obama poured on the charm.
…American and Chinese officials have been pursuing all 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but none more aggressively than Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, spread out across a strategically important, resource-rich archipelago and now led by a democratically elected government impatient to raise the country’s international profile.
The United States will have to contend with challenges, old and new. Despite Indonesia’s enduring suspicion of China, Beijing has been making great inroads here, economically, diplomatically and militarily. And a newly confident Indonesia has been reasserting its independent foreign policy, promoting what it now calls a “dynamic equilibrium” for the region.