Trump's VP tours Indonesian mosque in outreach to Muslims

Posted April 21, 2017

JAKARTA, April 21 U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to witness the signing of more than $10 billion in memoranda of understanding with U.S. companies in Indonesia on Friday, a White House official said.

Special event clearways will be enforced on the city's roads and the number of police officers on the city's streets boosted during the Australian leg of Mr Pence's Asia-Pacific tour.

Washington had billed the Vice President's visit to Jakarta as a booster for a strategic partnership between the world's second- and third-largest democracies, but it was feared that a raft of bilateral disputes with US companies could sap the goodwill from his trip.

"As a nation with a strong alliance with the United States, Australia is well positioned to provide frank and fearless counsel to the Trump administration", she said.

Vice President Mike Pence praised Indonesia for its tradition of "modern Islam" Thursday, sending a conciliatory message to the Islamic world as the Trump administration continues to cause unease among Muslims.

Pence, flanked by his family, also toured the biggest mosque in Indonesia, which can accommodate up to 200,000 people, was designed by a protestant, and sits near a Catholic cathedral in central Jakarta.

Pence said Trump's administration would work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on issues around security, trade and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Pence, standing side by side with Widodo at a news conference, said: "One of the greatest threats we face is the rise and spread of terrorism", though he did not refer to "radical Islam".

Pence says Trump will also attend the East Asia Summit that follows the regional meetings in the Philippines that same month.

The US leader then held an interfaith dialogue behind closed doors with representatives of the Christian, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu and Muslim faiths.

Pence's comments, though routine, had significance for Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who a day earlier suffered a serious political setback when a political ally was defeated by Islamic conservatives in the election for Jakarta governor.

Pence is announcing the presidential trip after meeting in Jakarta with ASEAN officials.

Lowy Institute for International Policy executive director Michael Fullilove told the Australian Associated Press that Pence's role is to be an "instrument of reassurance" for allies like Australia in terms of Trump's intentions for US trade relations as well as the dilemmas posed by the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the war in Syria.