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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    4 September  2012

Clinton pushes for strong role for Indonesia in Asean unity


Visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accomplished her mission to raise the South China Sea issue when meeting with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa at the latter's office yesterday evening.

Clinton's visit came less than a month after Natalegawa met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Jakarta.

Natalegawa and Clinton discussed numerous regional and global issues, ranging from tension in the South China Sea, which looked to be the main agenda item of the US official, as well as the conflict in Syria, tension on the Korean peninsula and Iran's nuclear programme.

"Our discussions today extended beyond bilateral issues. Like Indonesia’s relations with other key partners in the region, the relations between Indonesia and the US have proven to be a strong contributor to the region’s peace, stability and prosperity," Natalegawa said in his written statement delivered during a joint press conference.

The conference was delayed by more than an hour due to the two's prolonged bilateral talks.

Clinton, who began her press statement by expressing condemnation of the suicide bombing in Peshawar that injured American diplomats, said she was grateful to Indonesia's efforts to restore Asean unity after divisions arose over the South China Sea.

Friction among Southeast Asian countries came to the surface following the unprecedented failure to issue a joint communique in a recent Asean ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh.

Clinton pushed for Indonesia's strong role in maintaining Asean unity to deal with the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

She also said that the US supported Asean's six-point principle on the issue established after Natalegawa's shuttle diplomacy with his Southeast Asian counterparts.

Clinton also addressed domestic issues such as intolerant acts, violence against minorities and alleged human rights abuses in Papua.

Clinton used a written statement in the press conference. When responding to a question on the Papua issue asked by a journalist, Clinton also looked to read the written statement.

"We support Papua's integrity with Indonesia," she said while adding that human rights violations allegedly committed by Indonesian authorities must be addressed through the fair and transparent rule of law.

Clinton will have a courtesy call meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono today morning before leaving for Beijing.

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Clinton also called on China and its neighbours in Southeast Asia to move determinedly to draw up a code of conduct to help resolve disputes in the South China Sea and added that they should refrain from threats and coercion, which sent regional tensions skyrocketing recently.

"The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims over land features, but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively together to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and certainly without the use of force," she said.

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