JAKARTA // US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told Indonesia that Washington would not neglect South East Asia and addressed anger in the predominantly Muslim country over US policy in the Middle East. Mrs Clinton also discussed economic co-operation and efforts to reach a new global agreement on climate change with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during her 24-hour side trip to South East Asia's biggest economy, before heading for South Korea for meetings on the North's military threat.
After meeting Mr Yudhoyono, Mrs Clinton said the United States had neglected South East Asia and that her decision to visit Indonesia on her first trip abroad in her new job aimed at redressing that situation. "We don't want to be absent," she told local journalists. "We want to be present." Some South East Asian nations felt Washington had not paid the region enough attention under President George W Bush, allowing China to fill the vacuum.
Mrs Clinton was given a welcome more typical of a head of state. Mr Yudhoyono, who is seeking re-election in July, greeted her outside his office in the white colonial-style presidential palace in Jakarta before the two went in for talks. "The president underlined that a global consensus (on climate change) cannot be achieved without US leadership," a presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal told a news conference afterwards.
Earlier, Mrs Clinton made small talk on a popular music television show and toured US-funded aid projects as she tried to improve America's image in Indonesia, a country where many of the Bush administration's policies, including the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, were deeply unpopular. Appearing on "Dahsyat" ("Awesome"), a local youth music show, Mrs Clinton was cheered when she said the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were among her favourite musicians, but she politely declined an offer to sing herself.
She also fielded questions about the anger of Indonesians at US policy in the Middle East, saying Mr Obama had decided to push hard for Israeli-Palestinian peace despite the challenges of ending the six-decade conflict. "We are going to work very hard to try to resolve what has been such a painful, difficult conflict for so many years ... so that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace." * Reuters