China Reaffirms Ties with Indonesia

As tensions with Hanoi and Manila flare over the South China Sea, Beijing is now reaching out to other Southeast Asian countries and attempting to build better bilateral relations, according to China Daily:

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi embarked on a three-stop visit to Southeast Asia on Thursday, in which the South China Sea issue is expected to top discussions.

Chinese experts believe Yang will seek understanding from the island nations on the territorial issue, including Indonesia, which plays a leading mediating role in discussions inside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Wednesday that Yang will pay official visits to Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia from Thursday to Aug 13, at the invitation of his counterparts from the respective countries.

During his visit, Yang will also co-chair, with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, the second meeting of the joint committee for bilateral cooperation between the two governments.

According to Xinhua, Indonesia plays a large role in pushing the relationship between China and ASEAN forward:

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met here Friday and agreed to push bilateral relations forward.

Recalling Susilo’s visit to China in March, Yang said China is ready to make joint efforts with Indonesia to carry out the consensus reached by leaders of the two countries and push forward the bilateral strategic partnership and the strategic partnership between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The strategic cooperation between China and Indonesia, he said, is increasingly reflected in the active cooperation between the two sides on major global and regional issues against the backdrop of the current complicated international situation.

Indonesia is determined to deepen the sound cooperation in various fields with China and to actively boost the development of China-ASEAN relations, he said.

As the cooperation between China and Indonesia is reaffirmed, the dispute over the South China Sea and the inconclusive ASEAN pact continues to loom in the background. The Voice of America reports Indonesia is still hopeful for diplomacy in the region:

China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited Jakarta Friday to meet with his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalalegawa. While the two foreign ministers agreed to expand bilateral ties, it was comments on the South China Sea that drew the most attention.

Reaffirming closer ties, they emphasized the importance of deepening trade and investment, agreeing to boost bilateral trade to $80 billion by 2015, and discussed cooperation in sectors of defense and security, including maritime and food security.

“We shared the assessment that China and Indonesian relations are in a period of rapid development,” said Yang, recounting their discussion about of the next stage of the bilateral relationship. “Our two countries enjoy frequent high-level exchanges for fruitful economic and trade cooperation, blossoming defense and security cooperation, and people-to-people ties.”

“The very difficult issue of the South China Sea requires countries in the region, ASEAN and China to work closely,” Natalegawa told AFP. “Having met the Chinese foreign minister, I’m assured that diplomacy is still on track.”

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