1 of 3 | President Joe Biden shakes hands with Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Monday as the two announced a beefed-up strategic partnership. Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 13 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, announced strengthened ties between the two nations at the White House on Monday, eying closer cooperation on critical minerals.
The Indonesian leader, widely known as Jokowi, and Biden marked what they called a "historic new phase" in the nations' bilateral relations, elevating them to a "comprehensive strategic partnership" that boosts military ties, as well as closer cooperation on issues such as climate change.
"This will mark a new era in the relationships between the United States and Indonesia across the board, affecting everything," Biden said. "It includes enhancing security cooperation, particularly maritime security. And it includes expanding our work together to build a secure and resilient supply chain. It includes deepening our collaboration to combat the climate crisis."
"For Indonesia, economic cooperation is priority, including on supply chains issues," Jokowi responded.
The closer ties between Washington and Indonesia, regarded as the most powerful nation in Southeast Asia, come as Biden is preparing to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' gathering later this week in San Francisco, where he is slated to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Indonesia is looking for security help in preventing Chinese encroachment in its territorial waters, and under the new partnership Washington is earmarking $5 million in assistance to enhance Jakarta's "maritime domain awareness and at-sea enforcement," as well as $3 million to launch the U.S.-funded Maritime Training Center in Batam.
But it is in the field of critical minerals that the beefed-up ties have generated the most interest. Indonesia possesses significant quantities of minerals vital to the expanding high-tech and green energy industries, such as vast nickel reserves.
Industry analysts see Monday's White House meeting a possible stepping-stone for a future limited free-trade agreement with Indonesia through with the United States could lessen its dependence on China for the vital materials.
Despite the generally upbeat tone of Monday's meeting, differences between Washington the Muslim-majority Asian nation were evident regarding Biden's reluctance to press Israel for a cease-fire in its ongoing war against Hamas militants in Gaza.
Jokowi, who demanded an immediate cease-fire amid soaring Palestinian civilian casualties over the weekend at an Arab-Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia, used the occasion to press Biden on the issue.
"Indonesia also wishes our partnership contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity," Jokowi said. "So, Indonesia appeals to the U.S. to do more to stop the atrocities in Gaza. Cease-fire is a must for the sake of humanity."