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Indonesia leader suggests ASEAN membership for Australia

By Elizabeth Shim
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) and Indonesia President Joko Widodo are taking part in an ASEAN summit in Sydney on Saturday. File Photo David Moir/EPA
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) and Indonesia President Joko Widodo are taking part in an ASEAN summit in Sydney on Saturday. File Photo David Moir/EPA

March 16 (UPI) -- Indonesia is offering Australia an invitation Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull might find hard to turn down -- an opportunity to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo told Australia's Fairfax Media in an interview published Friday he thinks it would be a "good idea" for Australia to join ASEAN, and that the move would be better for "stability, economic stability and also political stability."

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Turnbull has welcomed the idea and said he looked "forward to discussing that with President Jokowi if he raises it with me," according to the Australian Associated Press.

Australia is a strategic partner of ASEAN and takes part in the biennial leaders' summit.

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The country could be more than prepared to become a full-time member with other nations that, when grouped together, comprise Australia's third-largest trading partner.

Indonesia's offer comes at a time when Jakarta and other Southeast Asian governments have been unable to respond effectively to Chinese island building in the South China Sea, and Australia and ASEAN's political interests are aligning in the face of a more assertive Beijing.

Australia is also in discussions with the United States, India and Japan with regards to an alternative to China's "Belt and Road" initiative to build global economic networks.

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Widodo and Turnbull are taking part in an ASEAN summit in Sydney on Saturday.

The Indonesian leader has been turning his attention to increasing Indonesia's regional influence in foreign policy.

He recently traveled to South Asia and visited a Rohingya refugee camp according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

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Indonesia is also looking to join the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member, according to the report.

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