By ALI KOTARUMALOS
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) â¿¿ Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday for his first visit to Southeast Asia since taking office, striving to boost ties and economic partnerships with the region's biggest country.
He met his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and is expected to address the country's Parliament and meet business leaders during the two-day trip. The countries are to sign a number of agreements totaling $20 billion in areas such as loans, mining, transportation and joint investment. Deals involving monorail construction in the capital, Jakarta, and the West Java provincial capital of Bandung are also planned.
A currency swap that could be utilized to support Indonesia's sliding rupiah in a crisis is also expected."This visit is very significant for the improvement of bilateral relations in political, economic and other sectors," Industry Minister Mohamad Suleman Hidayat said Tuesday. Promoting deeper ties between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations also will be on the agenda. Indonesia has been a broker during heated territorial spats over disputed islands in the South China Sea. China claims most of the entire sea on historical grounds, but Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan all strongly disagree. A number of maritime incidents between China and its neighbors has increased tensions in recent years, raising worries of potential violence. Xi, who took office in March, is also expected to visit Malaysia and attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week on Indonesia's resort island of Bali. China is Indonesia's second-largest trading partner. Two-way trade reached $66 billion last year, while Chinese direct investment rose to $2 billion.