Doyinsola Oladipo and David Brunnstrom, Washington – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) he was launching a "strategic dialogue" between the United States and Indonesia at talks in Washington with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
Blinken told reporters while meeting Marsudi at the State Department that the dialogue was agreed upon between the two countries some years ago but was now actually being initiated at their meeting in Washington.
"Indonesia is a strong democratic partner to the United States; we are working together on so many different fronts," Blinken said.
Marsudi said a strong partnership with Indonesia, the largest country and economy in the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), "will be a key aspect for the US increasing engagement in the region".
She said the United States was one of the important partners for ASEAN in implementing its outlook for the Indo-Pacific.
"It is my hope, and the Indonesian government's, to advance the bilateral relationship with the US from health to SDGs, from education, to economy, and beyond," she said, using the acronym for sustainable development goals.
Blinken said Washington looked forward to Indonesia's chairmanship of the G20 next year and to discussing bilateral trade and investment as well as regional issues and challenges on which the two countries were working together closely.
He said he and Marsudi planned to discuss COVID-19 and noted that Washington had recently added 3.5 million vaccine doses to 4.5 million already shared with Indonesia. He said the two countries were also working together on oxygen and therapeutics.
Blinken's talks with Marsudi came ahead of his participation in a virtual ministerial meeting between the United States and the bloc.
Blinken is taking part in a week of meetings with regional counterparts, part of a US effort to show it is serious about engaging with Southeast Asia to push back against China's expanding influence.
Australia has also moved to strengthen ties with its neighbour in recent weeks, holding a virtual meeting between trade ministers, and sending 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, testing kits and ventilators as part of a $12 million coronavirus aid package.