The US President Joe Biden hosted Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the White House as the two countries strengthen their relationship, one day before the US leader leaves for San Francisco to attend a summit of Asian leaders.
The presidents shared an afternoon tea and met with top advisers, according to senior administration officials who insisted on anonymity to reveal the schedule.
Indonesia and the United States are formalizing a new strategic partnership as they move toward closer collaboration. Also on the agenda will be expanding the trade of critical minerals like nickel, which can be used to produce electric vehicle batteries.
Indonesia is the world's largest producer of nickel.
In remarks at Georgetown University ahead of his arrival at the White House, Widodo said a closer relationship with Washington could pay dividends.
He also urged Washington to pay more efforts to stop “atrocities” in Gaza.
“Indonesia also wishes our partnership contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity. So Indonesia appealed to the U.S. to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza,” he said. “This (unintelligible) is a must for the sake of humanity. Once again, thank you for your invitation. President Biden, thank you."
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Widodo and Biden are exploring "opportunities to enhance cooperation on the clean energy transition, advance economic prosperity, bolster regional peace and stability, and reinforce our people-to-people ties.”
Biden's meeting with Widodo comes shortly before he sits down with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Indonesia is the world's third-largest democracy — after India and the United States — and a key player in Southeast Asia. The U.S. has been working to strengthen relationships in the region in hopes of deterring China's influence, and Vice President Kamala Harris attended a summit there in September.
“Indonesia is always open to cooperate with any country, and not to take the side of any power, except to take the side of peace and humanity," Widodo said on Monday.
However, events in the Middle East are expected to intrude on the agenda.
Widodo will be arriving in the U.S. after making a previous stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for a summit of Muslim leaders. While there, he joined in calls for a ceasefire and denounced the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza, which began after Hamas attacked on Oct.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country, and a senior administration official said “their views and their engagement are critical” on the war between Israel and Hamas. The official said Biden would seek to have Widodo “play a larger role” in the Middle East, although it was unclear exactly what that would entail.
During his remarks at Georgetown, Widodo mentioned estimates that a child is killed every ten minutes in Gaza.
”Human life seems meaningless, but for me, every life is precious," he said. “This is a humanitarian problem, and to end it requires global solidarity, global leadership which prioritizes humanity.”