Xi set to meet Indonesia’s Prabowo in China amid tensions at sea

Xi set to meet Indonesia’s Prabowo in China amid tensions at sea

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's front-runner presidential candidate and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto waves as he delivers his speech after the country's election commission announced last month's presidential election result, in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 20, 2024. (Reuters)
FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's front-runner presidential candidate and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto waves as he delivers his speech after the country's election commission announced last month's presidential election result, in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 20, 2024. (Reuters)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is set to meet Indonesian President-elect Prabowo Subianto in Beijing on Monday amid rising tensions in the South China Sea.

Prabowo, who will succeed Joko Widodo in October, has arrived in the Chinese capital, according to a video posted online by China Central Television. The Indonesian Defence Ministry said Prabowo’s journey was intended to “strengthen bilateral relations between Indonesia and China and enhance cooperation, especially in the field of defence.”

This is the first international trip for the incoming Indonesian leader since winning the election in February. The visit “demonstrates the robustness of China-Indonesia ties,” China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier. Prabowo will also meet with Premier Li Qiang and Defence Minister Dong Jun before departing on Tuesday. 

Investors will watching whether Prabowo will continue his predecessor’s middle-of-road strategy in navigating the US-China rivalry. China is Indonesia’s biggest economic partner and is pouring more than $7 billion into the nation’s commodity processing capacity.

Confrontations between China and the Philippines have ratcheted up over the past year as President Ferdinand Marcos Jr shifted his foreign policy back to the nation’s longtime ally, the US. Since Marcos took office in 2022, he has boosted security ties with Washington and its allies. He has also asserted the Philippines’ territorial claims, which overlap with China and other neighbours. 

Jokowi has maintained a non-confrontational approach over the sea dispute — though Beijing’s claims cut into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone — and Xi would prefer Indonesia continue that approach. Prabowo said during his campaign that he wouldn’t pick sides in the dispute.

China claims almost all of the waterway that’s vital for global trade and is estimated to contain vast energy reserves. Beijing has ignored a 2016 international court ruling that said its efforts to assert control over the South China Sea exceeded the law.

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