Press Gaggle by NSC Senior Director for Asian Affairs Jeff Bader and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes aboard Air Force One en route Jakarta, Indonesia
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Jakarta, Indonesia
3:32 P.M. WIT
MR. GIBBS: So we are going to hear in just a second from Ben Rhodes and Jeff Bader, who is our senior director for -- NSC senior director for East Asia. And you may have to move up a little bit because Jeff is normally a soft-spoken man.
Before we get into Ben going through the schedule, I want to bring us up to date on one scheduling thing, which, not surprisingly, is going to affect everybody, and that is the modeling for the volcanic ash is likely going to necessitate that we leave Indonesia several hours earlier than the schedule had it laid out tomorrow.
So we are working through a series of different scenarios on what the morning is going to look like. It’s likely going to dictate us beginning earlier, a little earlier in the day with some of the events. But as soon as we have all of that figured out, including logistics for the press charter, et cetera, which people are working on as we speak, we will be back to you. But we did want to put on your radar screen that leaving earlier and going to -- getting to Korea a touch earlier is almost certainly to happen.
Q Will he update or cancel or truncate any events?
MR. GIBBS: It’s unclear yet. We’re trying to work through that right now. My sense is that -- certainly our hope is that while we may have to truncate some of the morning, we can still get the speech in. So I know that’s -- I know Ben is relieved to hear that, since he spent a part of the flight working on that speech. You don’t know how good those speeches are nobody ever hears. They’re fabulous.
Q They’re like the questions we never get to ask. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: So let me have Ben go through the schedule for the next sort of 24 hours, understanding that the back part of this will change. We’ll have Jeff walk through some stuff, and then take your questions.
MR. RHODES: Well, I’ll just say a couple things with the schedule and then some of the thematics, and then Jeff has been the point person on this relationship so he can speak to some of the details here.
But first of all, we get there, we go directly to the State Palace where there will be an arrival ceremony. And following that, the President will go right into his restricted bilateral meeting with President Yudhoyono. And then there will be an expanded bilateral meeting with President Yudhoyono, and then a press conference with President Yudhoyono as well. And that will be obviously open press, and I believe a couple questions each side.
Q Is that going to be two and two?
MR. RHODES: Yes, two and two. Then later that -- later tonight there will be a state dinner hosted by President Yudhoyono for the President and the First Lady. And then tomorrow, the current schedule, we’re planning to go to the Istiqlal Mosque in the morning, which is the national mosque of Indonesia. Then the President will give a speech at the University of Indonesia -- or is it Jakarta? Yes, Indonesia. And then he’ll lay a wreath at the Heroes Cemetery. Tomorrow is actually Heroes Day in Indonesia, a national holiday commemorating their independence and the heroes of their nation.
I'll just say a couple of quick things and turn it over to Jeff. It’s obviously an important visit for the President and a highly anticipated one in Indonesia, given the fact that the President spent several years in Indonesia as a child. As you know, we’ve had to reschedule a couple of visits because of unforeseen circumstances, but we very much wanted to get here this year. That was a commitment the President made to President Yudhoyono and the Indonesian people. And so we’re looking forward to this visit to do that.
This is a very strategically important country and relationship for the United States. Indonesia is a growing economy as a member of the G20. It’s an important security partner as we join with them on counterterrorism and other issues. It’s a leader in Southeast Asia, and will be taking on the leadership of ASEAN this coming year. And it’s both the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but also in many respects a model of pluralism and religious tolerance in both the region and the world.
So there are many factors that guide our interest in deepening our partnership with Indonesia, and Jeff can speak to that.
In the context of the trip, I think it’s an interesting place to go after India. The three things that we’ve been focused on here, which are strengthening our leadership in Asia, strengthening our relationships with emerging powers that have come up in the late 20th and early 21st century, and deepening economic cooperation with emerging markets -- all of those themes converge in Indonesia as well, just as they did in India.
So I think that this is a very logical step as a democracy, an emerging economy and emerging power in the region for the President to visit. And with that, Jeff may want to speak to the status of the relationship.
MR. BADER: Sure. I'd emphasize two points, one of which Ben touched on, which is Indonesia’s role as a major regional and global actor. This is a country with whom historically relations have been somewhat tender, sometimes adversarial. But in the last decade, as Indonesia has become -- emerged as a democracy, and under President Yudhoyono, they are playing a larger and more constructive role in regional and world affairs.
Ben alluded to their membership in the G20, the only ASEAN country in the G20. They will assume the chairmanship of ASEAN on January 1st. At the same time, they’ll also assume the chairmanship of the East Asia Summit, which President Obama will be attending next year and which we are joining; an initiative that the President announced a few months back. They’re also a major player on climate change internationally, a major actor in the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of Islamic Countries.
So, like India, where we just visited, this is a country which is playing a larger and larger role in all of these venues, all these forums -- historically not necessarily supportive of the kinds of goals that we’ve had but now much more so. So I think that’s going to be one of the themes of this visit.
The second thing I'd emphasize is the comprehensive partnership that President Obama and President Yudhoyono will be announcing and inaugurating on this visit. This is a symbol and a manifestation of the new level to which we are taking the U.S.-Indonesia relationship. It has three broad components -- political security issues, economic issues and people-to-people issues. There are many subcomponents and many specific things we’re doing under each of these, which I can get into in questions and answers if you wish.
I would just highlight under the people-to-people -- education -- we’re looking to provide $165 million in assistance in education for Indonesia in higher-level education in the next five years. Something like 25 American universities will be partnering with Indonesian universities. We’re going to be increasing our teaching of English in Indonesia so that more Indonesian students can come to the U.S. to study. President Obama, in part because of his own personal experience in Indonesia, would like to see more Indonesians studying in the U.S.
Climate change, where Indonesia is a leader, President Yudhoyono has announced ambitious targets for Indonesia by 2020 to reduce by somewhere between 26 and 41 percent the level of emissions that Indonesia would normally be producing if certain conditions are met. We’re going to be establishing a climate change center in conjunction with the Norwegians, who are putting in a lot of money to prevent deforestation in Indonesia. I would highlight those areas at the outset.
The comprehensive partnership also includes trade, investment, clean energy, health issues, political security issues. I think that’s all I'd say by way of introducing.
Q Could you flesh out that second component a little bit, on economics, what this comprehensive partnership will have in terms of economic elements?
MR. BADER: Sure. One piece of it is that the U.S. Ex-Im Bank is making Indonesia one of its priority countries, one of its half-dozen top priority countries. U.S. trade with Indonesia is not as substantial as it should be, frankly. This is a function of the level of Indonesian development. Two-way trade is about $20 billion, but we think it can be much, much higher. In the last -- this year our exports to Indonesia have gone up quite sharply, gone up 47 percent, but that’s a fairly low base. We’ve signed an agreement by OPIC with its Indonesian counterpart to try to provide political risk insurance for investment in Indonesia. I think those are the main highlights.
One other thing I'd mention is that there are certain challenges that Indonesia needs to overcome if it’s to achieve its potential as a potential home for investment and trading partner.
I'd say near the top of the list would be a stronger fight -- a more effective fight against corruption, which has been endemic in Indonesia for decades. President Yudhoyono has started to take on that challenge. Indonesia is the chair of the G20 committee on corruption, but this is -- when one talks to companies and potential investors in Indonesia, this is the first issue one hears about and something I’m sure will be discussed.
Q So I just wanted to follow up on that. When you went to India there was a package of deals, deliverables --- $10 billion, 54,000 jobs. We’ve not heard anything like that for Indonesia. I'm guess that’s because you don’t have anything like that that you think is going to be a deliverable out of this trip.
MR. BADER: We’ve been discussing a number of potential substantial exports to Indonesia. I would not see this stop in the exact same light as the India trip, which was planned for months and which was -- and that was a big part of it.
In this case, I don’t think we’re looking at commercial deliverables, but we will be discussing some important deals which we think are on the right track.
Q And can you tell us what they are?
MR. BADER: No. Until they’re consummated, it would be presumptuous to say what --
Q What sector?
MR. BADER: I'd say in energy and infrastructure.
Q Jeff, I had a question on two topics. One is, can you talk about what President Obama would like to discuss with President Yudhoyono about Iran? What is he looking for?
MR. BADER: Well, Indonesia is, as I said, a major actor, a major player within the OIC. They have relations with Iran. They can talk to the Iranians.
So what we’re looking for is -- Indonesia has taken positive positions on proliferation issues. They have announced that they intend to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. They’re not going to wait for Senate action in the U.S. They’re going to go ahead. They have announced that they -- they have been clear in their opposition to an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
So what we’re looking for is for the Indonesians to use their relationship with Iran to help explain to the Iranians the benefits that would come from abandoning their nuclear weapons program and the problems it would cause if they pursue it. Basically it’s one more important international voice, a voice that has some credibility with the Iranians.
Q And then the other question I had has to do with the issue of human rights in Indonesia. To what degree is that a concern to President Obama, and will he raise it in conversations?
MR. BADER: Well, on human rights generally, Indonesia is a good news story. If you look at where Indonesia was a dozen years ago and where they are now, I think very few people would have predicted at the time of Suharto’s overthrow that Indonesia would emerge as a dynamic democracy with high level protection of human rights. I think that would have been, let’s say, not the highest scenario that most forecasters would have put on the list.
And they do have an enormously impressive record. They have very dynamic civil society, enormous range of civil society institutions which are very active and very vocal, a parliament in which numerous parties are represented. Women’s achievements in Indonesia are quite impressive both within the region and in general within the Islamic world. There are many Islamic -- there are many women political figures and many women active in public life in Indonesia. And the record of tolerance in the religious field is also very impressive. So the general picture is positive and the President will make that clear.
Now, this is a developing country which is -- just has a dozen years of experience in democracy, so the picture is not perfect. There are problems. The President would be clear in talking about those with President Yudhoyono. You will all -- many of you will have heard about this video of some Popuan civilians who were tortured and/or mistreated, and it would appear that military in plainclothes were involved. The Indonesian government has announced and the Indonesian military has announced that it’s disturbed and it’s conducting an investigation into this. We welcome their announcement of an investigation but we’ll be looking to see that the investigation leads to accountability and justice.
MR. RHODES: I’d just add one thing to that too. In addition to discussing Indonesia’s internal progress in cases like this where we support their efforts to ensure that there’s accountability, Indonesia on human rights and democracy can play a role beyond its borders. It’s a similar message that we gave in India.
But Indonesia is actually -- this relates to the Iran question too -- Indonesia has -- in terms of being a country that is more confident and more assertive in their regional stage. Through the Bali Democracy Forum that they’ve set up and through its leadership within ASEAN, they’ve actually been more vocal and outward-looking in terms of their ability to try to galvanize support for human rights in the region. And we see Indonesia as, again, a positive influence in that respect. In the past they’ve made comments, for instance, around Burma and Burma’s human rights record that have been very constructive and very strong.
And frankly, what we’ve been trying to do is broaden the circle of voices, democratic voices, that are speaking out on these types of issues, whether it relates to human rights generally or a specific instance like Burma. And so we believe that part of what the role that Indonesia can play going forward is being a partner with us in Southeast Asia for these issues that are important to our values.
MR. BADER: I’d like to add one point that Ben has reminded me. In addition, supplementing what Ben said about the regional role, there is also an agreement on cooperation between the U.S. and Indonesian civil society organizations, which are going to play precisely the role Ben talked about in disseminating democratic values and serving as a model throughout the region. We’re going to be providing $15 million over the next five years to support this civil society umbrella in Indonesia, which focuses on issues such as elections, election monitoring, media and freedom of the press issues, conflict resolution.
Q Did you say $15 or --
MR. BADER: $15 million.
Q Is the President proficient enough in Javanese to conduct any of his talks in that language?
MR. RHODES: He’s proficient enough to speak the language in a way that would be immediately understood. However, I don’t think he has spoken it on a kind of regular basis in a long time, so I doubt he would conduct business in the language. But he could certainly speak in a way in which the Indonesian people would understand what he’s saying.
Q And also, as you’re working on that speech, are you adjusting at all to address in any way the new construction in East Jerusalem that was just announced?
MR. RHODES: We had not taken that into consideration for this speech. I think you’ll -- I mean, more generally, it’s at a -- it doesn’t really -- I would say the Middle East is not a focus on the speech so we had not taken that into consideration. I’d obviously just echo the comments that you got out of the State Department earlier today about the United States being deeply disappointed by that announcement.
Q Jeff, on the education, is it mostly about having students come to the U.S. or is it also about building up higher ed within --
MR. BADER: It’s two ways. The objective is to increase substantially, perhaps double, the number of Americans studying in Indonesia. There is -- we’re vastly increasing the size of the Fulbright program in Indonesia. It will be one of the largest Fulbright programs in the world with the new funding it’s going to obtain. There are plans to send -- to increase substantially the number of American high school and community college students studying in Indonesia within the next year. So it’s envisioned as two ways.
Q Of those 25 universities in the U.S. that will be having branches there, any names?
MR. BADER: I believe that so far four American universities have worked out partnerships. I can remember them in part, but I’d rather give you an accurate answer rather than my recollection. Do you happen to -- I remember some of them but I don’t want to offend someone by giving them out.
MR. RHODES: We can get you that, Hans.
Q Okay. Thanks.
Q I just want to check one thing. You mentioned $165 and $15 million. Is that $180 million, is that the dollar number on sort of the assistance that you’ll be announcing in the course of this visit to Indonesia?
MR. BADER: Well, we’ll be alluding to those. I’m not sure what the state of announcement on those has been in the past, but both of those will be mentioned as well as I think we have a figure of about $136 million for climate change-related programs and assistance over two years that also you may want to take note of.
Q It’s $136 million?
MR. BADER: $136 million, that’s right.
MR. RHODES: All right. Thank you very much.
Q Just one quick -- on G20, will you be seeking Indonesia’s support of G20? Are you going to be canvassing for their support in Indonesia for the meeting in Seoul, in the way you got it from the Indians?
MR. BADER: We anticipate that the President and President Yudhoyono will talk about the G20 since they’re a member. We’ll talk about our expectations and we’ll lay out what we hope to accomplish there, yes.
MR. RHODES: I’d just -- just one other area that I’d just highlight too, the counterterrorism area. Indonesia has been a bit of a success story in terms of their ability to take action against the al Qaeda affiliate in their country. You saw the leader of the al Qaeda in Indonesia group killed by Indonesian security forces last year; the bomb maker in the Bali bombings of 2002, this year; and a number of successful actions in terms of Indonesian security forces taking action against the al Qaeda affiliate.
So it’s just worth noting in the context of these other issues that they’ve been not just a good partner in counterterrorism but a nation that through their own capacity has really made significant progress against what has been a dangerous al Qaeda affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah.
Q I’m sorry, the bomb maker was killed or was captured or --
MR. RHODES: Killed, the bomb maker.
Q Hey, Jeff, can I ask is there any movement on the six-party talks that’s like might produce something in the near -- while you’re -- while the President is in the region?
MR. BADER: I mean, I wouldn’t say we have anything new to announce or report on that. I mean, of course when we get to Seoul, President Obama will be talking to President Lee Myung-bak about the future of both dialogue with the North and six-party talks. But there’s nothing new at this stage to announce, no.
Q Do you believe it’s true that they’ve dropped -- that South Korea is not insisting on an apology about the sinking of the Cheonan?
MR. BADER: Well, I think South -- I’d hesitate to speak for what the South Koreans are asking for or insisting upon. I mean, I think the South Koreans should -- if they’re going to alter their position, they should say it rather than I should.
MR. RHODES: Thanks, guys.
Q Thank you.
3:57 P.M. WIT