Clinton In Indonesia To Improve Muslim Relations

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has arrived in Indonesia, where she is hoping to make progress on rehabilitating America's image abroad, especially with Muslims. It is her second stop in an inaugural overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

And I'm Ari Shapiro.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is crisscrossing Asia. It's her first foreign mission abroad and she arrived in Indonesia today. It's the world's most populous Muslim nation, and it's a special place on the map because President Obama spent four years of his childhood there.

NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with the secretary and she's on the line now.

Good morning, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Good morning.

SHAPIRO: Well, what does the secretary hope to accomplish in Indonesia today?

KELEMEN: Her aides on the plane on the way over here talked about Indonesia as a critical regional actor. They want to not only talk about bilateral issues but also much broader issues. Things like climate change and the global financial crisis. Indonesia is part of the G-20, the group of 20 most industrialized nations and also developing countries that are going to be having a summit this year to talk about the financial crisis. So that will be one major theme.

But she also wants to hold this country up as an example. As you said, it's a large Muslim population. It's also a democracy and has been doing well in development. And she really plans to highlight that on this trip.

SHAPIRO: What does it say about America's plans for interactions with the Muslim world that on this, her first trip, she makes such a prominent visit to such a prominent Muslim country?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, it's interesting. They talk about this as it being part of the Muslim outreach, but it's also a bit broader than that and it's also a key regional player. It's home to ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations. And Secretary Clinton is making a point of going to the secretariat of that organization and trying to play a bigger role in that organization, so that the U.S. would be a real player in Southeast Asia. And she often talks about the need to have these networks of partnerships to deal with the most pressing global issues.

SHAPIRO: How is she regarded in Indonesia? What kind of a reception can she expect?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, it's funny. As you mentioned, President Obama spent part of his childhood here. And her aides say that people in Indonesia have an affinity to this administration because of that and she really wants to build on it. President Obama's mother worked on micro credits in Indonesia. And so I'm sure we're going to be hearing a lot about that.

And in the welcome ceremony we had children from one of the schools that President Obama attended while he was here. They were singing, wearing these green batik shirts, bobbing their heads back and forth as she did. Why don't we listen a little?

(Soundbite of children singing in foreign language)

KELEMEN: Then even on the way in we saw a lot of people lining the streets, just checking out the motorcade. So I think there's a lot of goodwill toward this administration.

SHAPIRO: Now, as you mentioned, Michele, Indonesia is a relatively peaceful country. But I'm sure many people remember that there have been terrorist attacks there. There was an infamous incident in a nightclub on the island of Bali. Are national security issues on the agenda as well for this visit?

KELEMEN: Definitely - and definitely terrorism issues. Her aides on the plane on the way over here did talk about that they give the Indonesians a lot of credit for arrests that they made in the Bali bombings, for degrading Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I. as they call, a terrorist group based here. So they will be holding that up again as an example for others to follow. We heard a lot of praise from Secretary Clinton's advisors about Indonesia's crackdown on terrorism.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, Michele. Safe travels.

KELEMEN: Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

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