Indonesia’s Jokowi visits Vietnam to talk South China Sea security, trade

HANOI (Reuters) – Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, on Friday will meet Vietnamese top leaders during a state visit to Hanoi aimed at promoting cooperation between the two Southeast Asian partners on security in the South China Sea and trade.

Ahead of Jokowi’s trip, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the country was ready to work with other Southeast Asian nations to finalise a long-delayed code of conduct for the South China Sea, amid tensions with Beijing in the contested waterway.

Jokowi’s visit to Hanoi is part of a larger Southeast Asian trip that also included a prior stop in the Philippines and an expected visit to Brunei this weekend before Indonesian elections next month.

Vietnamese leaders are expected to discuss with him cooperation on trade, security, defence and agriculture, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesperson Pham Thu Hang told reporters on Thursday.

Draft agendas from both countries list meetings on Friday with Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue.

Contrary to normal practice, Jokowi is not expected to meet Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, amid concerns about the elderly leader’s health.

Since 2022, Vietnam has pursued in a strategy of boosting ties with global powers and partners, and it is expected to seek stronger relations with Indonesia.

The two countries agreed in 2022 to recognise the boundaries of their Exclusive Economic Zones in the South China Sea, a move that was seen as a blow to China, which claims almost the entire strategic trade route.

Indonesia has also said it plans to export gas to Vietnam from gasfields in the South China Sea.

A Vietnamese official said Jokowi was expected to discuss with Vietnam the progress on the South China Sea code of conduct and ways to move it forward.

A Southeast Asian code of conduct would be seen as another blow to China.

Beijing and Southeast Asian nations have been trying since 2002 to set up a framework to negotiate the code of conduct, but progress has been slow despite commitments by all parties to advance and expedite the process.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu and Francesco Guarascio in Hanoi; Additional reporting by Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Editing by Jamie Freed)