CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Print Print Email Email Share Share Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close

loading...

John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
February 13, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

At the end of his current trip to Asia, Secretary of State John Kerry will be stopping in Jakarta and meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. Although his visit in Jakarta will be short, Kerry will undoubtedly emphasize the same themes he is hitting throughout the visit, including pushing to restart talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and prodding China to work more seriously with Southeast Asian nations on a real code of conduct for the South China Sea. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, traveling with Kerry, has a thorough summary of the trip’s agenda here.

At the ASEAN Secretariat, Kerry surely will find a welcoming audience for a speech about a South China Sea code of conduct; although he has thus far taken pains to play the role of regional statesman, ASEAN’s Secretary General does hail from Vietnam, one of the two Southeast Asian nations most involved in disputing areas of the Sea with China. Still, it is hard to see what Kerry can say about a code of conduct that would be new in any way, or that would exert more pressure on Beijing than other strategies tried by the administration. Indeed, Kerry might eventually have better luck getting Kim Jong Un to make a deal on his nuclear program than on getting Beijing to agree to a real and binding code of conduct. (The Secretary also will sign two Memorandums of Understanding with Indonesia’s Foreign Minister. These will deal with more modest issues like working together to help other developing countries improve their human rights records.)

Despite the short amount of time Kerry is spending in Jakarta, and the focus on ASEAN and regional issues, it would be valuable for him to dip his toe, slightly, into domestic Indonesian politics. He should meet with Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, who is almost sure to be the next president of Indonesia, and who provides an excellent counter-example to failing democracy in Thailand and Cambodia and Malaysia—an accountable, successful, and democratically elected Southeast Asian leader. [See Bloomberg View for a summary of Jokowi as counter-example.] Surely the Secretary of State can make time for a bilateral with the Jakarta mayor?

Post a Comment No Comments

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required

Pingbacks