WASHINGTON/JAKARTA (Reuters) – US Secretary of State John Kerry will seek greater cooperation from China and Southeast Asia’s main Muslim states, Indonesia and Malaysia, in the campaign against Islamic State and staunching the flow of foreign fighters to the militant group, US and Asian officials said.
China’s most senior diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, is expected in Kerry’s home city of Boston on Friday and Saturday, a Chinese diplomat said. Kerry is then due in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, for Monday’s inauguration of newly-elected president Joko Widodo.
The trip to Indonesia is significant on several fronts. A fast-growing beacon of moderate Islam and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia exerts enormous influence in a region that has seen growing numbers of fighters travelling to Syria to join Islamic State, also known as IS.
Indonesian security crackdowns have wea-kened and dispersed militant groups, helping to transform the country’s image since the after-math of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks when it was an epicentre of militancy and breeding ground for the likes of Jemaah Islamiah, which carried out the 2002 Bali bombing and other attacks on Western targets.
A senior US administration official said the focus of talks with Indonesian leaders would be on building a relationship with the new government and discussing ways to stop the flow of fighters from Indonesia and Muslim-majority Malaysia.
In Jakarta, Kerry will also meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Malaysia’s foreign ministry said the two would discuss the global coalition against Islamic State.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Ab-bott, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have also said they will attend the inauguration. British Prime Minister David Cameron and other leaders have also been invited but have yet to confirm.
The United States has assembled a coalition of what it says are more than 40 countries and has carried out air strikes in territory held by the group in Iraq and Syria. US fighter and bomber planes made 14 raids against Islamic State targets near the Syrian town of Kobani on Wednesday and Thursday.
In Boston with Yang and again in Jakarta
with Indonesian officials, Kerry is expected to discuss expanded intelligence cooperation, inclu-ding tracking militant movements and financing, say analysts familiar with the administration’s thinking.