Indonesia's Jokowi begins visit to China, Japan and South Korea

Indonesian President Joko Widodo will be the first foreign head of state to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping since the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. PHOTO: JOKO WIDODO/FACEBOOK

BEIJING - Indonesian President Joko Widodo will begin a whistle-stop tour of three East Asian countries on Tuesday (July 26).

He will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing at the start of his three-day trip, before heading to Japan and South Korea.

Mr Widodo will be the first foreign head of state to meet the Chinese leader since the Winter Olympics in Beijing back in February. Mr Xi has not left China since around the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Widodo is also expected to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

The leaders will have "an in-depth exchange of views focusing on bilateral relations and major regional and international issues", Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last Thursday.

"We hope that through President Joko Widodo's visit, the two sides will further deepen our strategic mutual trust and practical cooperation," he added.

That China is the first stop on the Indonesian leader's tour of East Asia showed the "high importance" both countries attach to bilateral relations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had also said last Thursday.

Diplomatic visits have been rare under China's severe pandemic protocols, and Mr Widodo's visit has been read as a sign that the world's second-largest economy could be loosening its strict Covid-19 policies.

Mr Widodo will travel to Tokyo on Wednesday to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and he will also call on Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.

His final stop is Seoul, where he will be received by his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol on Thursday.

South Korea's national security adviser Kim Sung-han said the two leaders "will discuss bilateral cooperation in various areas, including defence, infrastructure and economic security", local news agency Yonhap reported on Monday.

"In-depth discussions" on South Korea's upcoming Indo-Pacific strategy and its cooperation with the Asean regional bloc are also expected.

Mr Kim had also said that the Indonesian leader's visit would mark "the proper beginning of the Yoon Suk-yeol government's diplomacy with Asean".

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said last week that all three countries that Mr Widodo is visiting are Indonesia's "strategic partners in the economic sector".

"The focus of the upcoming meetings is to strengthen economic cooperation, especially in trade and investment," she said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.