Indonesian president to meet Biden at White House on Monday

By Trevor Hunnicutt, Stanley Widianto and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON/JAKARTA (Reuters) -Indonesian President Joko Widodo will meet U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House next week for talks on regional security and clean-energy transition, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

Jean-Pierre told a news briefing the meeting would take pace on Monday, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

She said the two would discuss ways to uphold international law and ensure a free-and-open Indo-Pacific, a reference Washington uses to describe its efforts to push back against China’s growing power and influence in the region.

“During the visit, President Biden will reaffirm the United States’ commitment to deepening our nearly 75-year-long partnership between the world’s second and third largest democracies,” she said.

Jean-Pierre said the two leaders would also explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on the transition to clean energy, to advance economic prosperity, and to bolster regional peace and stability.

Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is known, is scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco from Nov. 15-17.

Plans for the Washington meeting were first announced in September after Biden disappointed Indonesia by not attending a summit with Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta in August and sent Vice President Kamala Harris instead.

Indonesia is the most populous country in Southeast Asia and an important regional partner for Washington.

While China is a key economic partner for Indonesia, Jakarta has also become a big buyer of U.S. arms, and regional experts expect the two sides to discuss bolstering security ties next week in Washington.

They are also keen to advance cooperation on critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries, although this has met some resistance in the U.S. Congress.

The Middle East war also presents an awkward backdrop, with Indonesia the world’s largest secular Muslim majority nation and the United States Israel’s main ally.

Indonesia has joined a chorus of international condemnation of Israel’s invasion of Gaza following Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and has called for an immediate ceasefire. On Tuesday, Widodo said Indonesia’s support for Palestine would “never waver.”

On Monday, the Financial Times quoted the Indonesian leader as calling on the U.S. and other Western countries to release a promised $20 billion to finance Indonesia’s green energy transition and to do more to support its critical minerals industry.

The paper quoted Widodo as saying in an interview that there was “tremendous” concern in Indonesia over delay of the funds, which Washington and its G7 partners promised a year ago to help accelerate the closure of Indonesia’s coal-powered plants.

“Don’t question Indonesia’s commitment towards (the) energy transition. What I’m questioning is the commitment of the developed states,” Widodo said.

“Indonesia has walked the talk. We have even gone so far as developing the electric vehicle industry to support green energy,” he said, while adding he was confident that Western financing would materialize.

Plans to reduce the use of coal in Indonesia and Vietnam with financial support from Western donors have faced teething problems, which could have implications for the prospects of richer countries helping poorer ones shift to cleaner energy, a key priority for Biden’s administration.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Stanley Widianto; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Richard Chang and Jonathan Oatis)