Indonesia holds inaugural dialogue with China, seeks help to build vaccine production hub

Indonesia is relying on China's Sinovac for the first tens of millions of vaccine shots before it receives more vaccines from AstraZeneca in the later months. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesia has asked China for technical assistance to kick-start the production of Covid-19 vaccine so that it could become a regional production hub, as the two countries pledged to improve bilateral relations during their inaugural high-level dialogue in China over the weekend.

Such dialogue is a new format to better coordinate the various forms of cooperation under their comprehensive strategic partnership, Indonesian Foreign Minister Reto Marsudi said on Monday (June 7) in an online media briefing from China.

The in-person meeting on June 5, held in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, was co-chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan, who is President Joko Widodo's point man for cooperation with China.

Ms Retno said: "I stressed the importance of continuing our health and vaccine cooperation. I asked Foreign Minister Wang Yi to send a (technical) team to discuss the cooperation in detail."

"Indonesia has expressed it is ready to become a regional production hub of vaccines," she added.

A statement on the Chinese foreign ministry website on Sunday said China will encourage more Chinese vaccine manufacturers to carry out clinical trials in Indonesia, support the country in building a regional vaccine production centre, and jointly promote the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.

"China resolutely resists 'vaccine nationalism', and 'vaccine divide'," the statement quoted Mr Wang as saying.

Having announced support for waiving intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines, China will promote the transfer of technologies by its vaccine companies to other developing nations and carry out joint production to expand vaccine accessibility and affordability, the statement said.

Indonesia, the worst-hit country in South-east Asia by the pandemic, began its vaccination drive in its 34 provinces in mid-January. The country is relying on China's Sinovac for the first tens of millions of vaccine shots before it receives more vaccines from Britain's AstraZeneca in the later months.

At the inaugural talks, Mr Wang also said that both sides should set a long-term goal of building a China-Indonesia community with a shared future, focus on political security, trade and investment, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, maritime cooperation, and anti-epidemic and public health cooperation, Xinhua news agency reported.

This is to open up a new stage of all-round development of China-Indonesia relations, Mr Wang was quoted as saying.

The two sides signed two memorandums of understanding on establishing the high-level dialogue cooperation mechanism and strengthening maritime cooperation, Xinhua reported.

"I believe we can continue to strengthen our mutually beneficial relations to improve the welfare of the people in both countries today and in the future," Mr Luhut said in a statement on Monday.

Indonesia and China have cooperated in mutually beneficial projects, such as the joint-venture nickel industrial project in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province. But there have also been several tense maritime border incidents between them, which Jakarta and Beijing have managed.

Indonesia has repeatedly stated its sovereignty over an area north of the Natuna Islands, where it says it has seen encroachments by Chinese and Vietnamese vessels over the years.

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