JAKARTA, Indonesia – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed Monday for Asian nations to step up their efforts to combat Islamic State extremists and the deadly Ebola virus.
In Jakarta for the inauguration of Indonesia’s new reformist president, Kerry took the opportunity to meet separately with the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot.
Later Monday, he was to see Singaporean Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong, Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Resario as well as the just inaugurated reformist Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who won hotly contested elections in July.
Officials travelling with Kerry said preventing extremist recruitment in Southeast Asia, particularly in predominantly Muslim nations like Indonesia and Malaysia, is a main non-military priority of the coalition the U.S. is assembling to combat the Islamic State group.
The U.S. is looking for these countries “to do more and co-operate more” to keep extremist proselytizing out of their territories, rebut extremist ideologies, prevent the flow of foreign fighters and crack down on terrorist financing, the officials said.
Kerry wasted no time in getting to that point, thanking the Malaysian premier for his country’s “strong statements” against the Islamic State group’s radical ideology, the officials said. But Kerry also made clear that the international community must continue to do more to crack down on foreign fighters, they said.
With Abbot, Kerry hailed Australia’s role in the coalition, which includes a significant military component, and noted that Australians had seen first-hand the problem created by foreign fighters.
The presence of Australians among Islamic State fighters “brings home to everybody how important it is for this to be a global coalition and for all of us to understand the stakes,” Kerry told Abbot.
He also noted that the coalition’s military efforts had been given a boost in recent days by the Iraqi government’s selection of interior and defence ministers. “That is particularly helpful in planning and implementing our efforts,” Kerry said.
Kerry’s visit to Jakarta – which required more than 26 hours of travel time for just 24 hours on the ground before he heads to Germany on Tuesday – is aimed at highlighting the Obama administration’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, especially its hopes for Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country and third largest democracy.
Asia is home to most of the world’s fastest growing economies. Kerry has made eight trips to Asia in the last 20 months and President Barack Obama will be heading to China, Myanmar and Australia next month.
On Ebola, Kerry is seeking nations to boost their contributions to the global effort to stop the spread of the virus, the U.S. officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss preview Kerry’s meetings by name.