Obama meets with Indonesian president
He is expected to attend a session of the East Asia Summit Saturday
He will also meet with the Thai prime minister before departing for home
The Asian leg of Obama's trip follows two days in Australia
U.S. President Barack Obama met Friday with his Indonesian counterpart in Bali as he prepares to conclude an eight-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region.
The meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came ahead of Obama’s participation in the East Asia Summit, a first for a U.S. president, according to the White House. The summit serves as a forum for the region – which accounts for more than half of the world’s gross domestic product – to create dialogue on issues relating to politics, security and the economy.
Obama is expected to meet Saturday with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra before the East Asia Summit session, after which he will depart for home.
As part of their talks Friday, Yudhoyono and Obama announced a $600 million deal through the Millennium Challenge Corporation “to support environmentally sustainable economic development through clean energy projects and sustainable landscapes projects, community-based nutrition programs, and procurement modernization,” according to the White House.
The leaders also reaffirmed their partnership and “commitment to strengthen democracy and human rights in their own societies.”
Earlier Friday, Obama took part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic summit and hailed an airplane sales deal between Boeing and an Indonesian airline.
Obama held bilateral talks with India, the Philippines and Malaysia before the ASEAN meeting. He also attended a gala dinner for East Asian leaders Friday wearing a traditional Indonesian shirt.
Meanwhile, ASEAN leaders agreed that Myanmar can chair the regional bloc in 2014, amid some signs of reform. Some critics say it is still too early to award the high-profile role to Myanmar, where 600 to 1,000 political prisoners are believed to remain behind bars.
Coinciding with the agreement, Obama announced that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit Myanmar next month on a trip that could signal a major change in relations between the two countries. He made the announcement after talking with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Clinton’s trip is an indication that Myanmar, also known as Burma, has made some progress toward democracy and that the time could be right to forge a new relationship between the nations, the White House said.
The Asian leg of Obama’s trip follows two days in Australia, where he declared that the United States will increase its military presence and expand its role in shaping the Asia-Pacific region. “Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in this region,” Obama told the Australian Parliament. “The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.”
He announced an agreement with Australia on Wednesday that will expand military cooperation between the longtime allies and boost America’s presence in the region.
Before departing Australia for Indonesia, the president, along with some U.S. Marines, visited a military base in Darwin. While speaking to the troops there, Obama thanked them for their service and praised the two nations’ alliance, which is now 60 years old, and said he looks forward to a deepening of the alliance.
The president’s Australian visit – postponed twice in 2009 and 2010 due to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and other domestic political considerations – highlights a changing balance of power in the Pacific as China expands its military reach and the United States works to reduce its military footprint in Japan.