VP Pence praises Indonesia’s democratic, tolerant values

VP Pence praises Indonesia's democratic, tolerant values

JAKARTA, Indonesia — U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence praised Indonesia’s democracy and moderate form of Islam on Thursday alongside the president of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, reinforcing his message with a visit to the region’s largest mosque.

Pence’s comments, though routine, had significance for Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who a day earlier suffered a serious political setback when a political ally was defeated by Islamic conservatives in the election for Jakarta governor. The divisive campaign undermined the image of Indonesia abroad as a generally tolerant Muslim nation.

Indonesia is the latest stop on an Asian tour by Pence that aims to reaffirm traditional U.S. alliances at a time when Donald Trump’s presidency has raised questions about the strength of the U.S. commitment to the region.

Pence said at a joint news conference with Jokowi that the U.S. wants to strengthen its strategic partnership with Indonesia. In brief comments, Jokowi said they agreed to boost co-operation.

The vice-president praised Indonesia for its moderate form of Islam and said the two countries would continue to co-operate on combating terrorism.

“As the second- and third-largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values including freedom, the rule of law, human rights and religious diversity,” Pence said. “The United States is proud to partner with Indonesia. It promotes and protects these values.”

The vice-president added: “Indonesia’s tradition of moderate Islam frankly is an inspiration to the world and we commend you and your people. In your nation as in mine, religion unifies, it doesn’t divide.”

Pence said Trump would be attending a summit with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in the Philippines in November.

But Pence foreshadowed some reworking of commercial and economic ties, saying that the U.S. seeks a free and fair relationship that helps job creation and economic growth for both sides. He said that U.S. exporters should face a level playing field and the relationship should be “win-win.”

Trump assailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal during his 2016 campaign and announced shortly after his inauguration that the U.S. would withdraw from the Pacific Rim-based TPP, which now includes 11 countries from Chile to New Zealand. Pence has sought to reassure allies in the region that the U.S. is still committed to trade and economic ties despite Trump’s decision on TPP.

Indonesia is on Trump’s trade hit list of nations that he considers the U.S. is losing out to in trade, and U.S. company Freeport-McMoran Inc., which operates the world’s largest copper mine in the Indonesian province of Papua, is in a protracted dispute with the Indonesian government.

Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, is active in Indonesia with plans to manage luxury resorts being built near the capital Jakarta and on the tourist island of Bali.

Trump’s Indonesian business partner, billionaire Hary Tanoe, is an aspiring politician who has said he might run for president in 2019.

Pence’s first engagement in Indonesia was morning tea with Jokowi at the presidential palace. He and his family later visited the Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia.

The Pences removed their shoes at the entrance and his wife, Karen, and two daughters covered their heads with scarves. They walked inside the large prayer hall, observing the soaring dome, and also stopped at an open terrace in the mosque.

Pence later sat with several faith leaders in a conference room where a speaker gave Pence an overview of the mosque’s history. The mosque, which can accommodate up to 200,000 people, was designed by a Protestant and sits near a Catholic cathedral in central Jakarta.

The message and images sought to address questions in the Muslim world about Trump after his push for travel bans that would temporarily suspend visas from six predominantly-Muslim countries and halt the U.S. refugee program. Two judges have blocked the ban, prompting the Trump administration to appeal.

Trump’s executive order does not include Indonesia, but the country is home to nearly 14,000 refugees seeking resettlement in third countries and activists have said the ban would affect their ability of entering the U.S.

___

Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC

___

Associated Press writer Stephen Wright contributed to this report.

Ken Thomas, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Parents call for change to health laws after Oak Bay teen’s death

Accidental overdose has Elliot Eurchuk’s parents seeking change to B.C Infants Act

LGBTQ advocates turn Victoria SOGI protest into dance party

Counter-protest outnumbers anti-SOGI activists on lawn of B.C. legislature

Tsawout hosts Saanich Peninsula community leaders at blanket ceremony

Reconciliation event meant to share the Indigenous exerience

WATCH:First responders score first, take inaugural Challenge Cup in Oak Bay

Ice hockey game raises funds for Cops for Cancer, encourages positive interaction with youth

Amazing Race Canada kicks off at Hatley Castle

Popular reality TV show will premiere later this year

UPDATED: 9 killed, 16 injured after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Toronto police say nine people have died and 16 are injured

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

Judith Guichon steps down as Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

Election decision didn’t make her best moments from the past six years

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Scooter crash leaves Island man with critical injuries

RCMP said a truck was making a left-hand turn when it collided with the scooter travelling through the intersection

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

ICBC reform aims to slow rising car insurance costs

‘Pain and suffering’ payouts to be capped, major injury limit to double

Most Read