China's Xi in Indonesia on first Southeast Asia trip

Published October 02, 2013

| AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Indonesia Wednesday on his first trip to Southeast Asia since taking power, as Beijing seeks to tap into the country's booming economy.

He was given a red-carpet welcome, with a brass band playing and a military parade, in the capital Jakarta before heading for talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Afterwards Xi is expected to unveil trade deals in several sectors, including infrastructure, technology and tourism, reportedly worth up to $20 billion.

He will also ink an accord for investment in construction of a monorail in the capital Jakarta, where unrelenting traffic drains billions of dollars from Southeast Asia's top economy each year.

On Thursday Xi, who took over as president in March, will become the first foreign leader to address Indonesia's parliament.

Trade between China and Indonesia has soared from $16.5 billion in 2005 to more than $66.2 billion in 2012 and Xi said he hoped the visit would strengthen ties.

"Indonesia has made remarkable achievement in its development, enjoyed rising international status and is playing an increasingly important role on the global stage," he told reporters as he arrived in Jakarta.

"Our two countries have established a strategic partnership and conducted fruitful cooperation in all fields."

China already has significant investments in Indonesia in several sectors, including mining.

Regional territorial disputes may also be on the agenda. Indonesia has in the past acted as a mediator between China and other nations during rows over the South China Sea.

Indonesia has no disputes with China over the sea, unlike nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam whose territorial claims overlap with those of Beijing.

Beijing is committed to working with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to "safeguard peace and stability in this region, including in the South China Sea", Xi was quoted as saying in the Jakarta Post newspaper Wednesday.

"As for the differences and disputes between countries, China has always stood for proper resolution through friendly negotiations and dialogue."

After his visit to Indonesia, Xi will head to neighbouring Malaysia and then a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

It was unclear if US President Barack Obama would also be attending the regional summit after he scrapped a visit to Malaysia planned for next week due to the US government shutdown.

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