Press Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia

Press Conference
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Jakarta, Indonesia
May 20, 2015

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: We in the United States have been very very focused on what we call the rebalance to Asia. And we need to wait for the interpreter. He’s right here. Ok. I’m sorry. This part of the world, this region represents the greatest opportunities, the growth, and progress of any part of the world. And Indonesia is the heart of that opportunity, by its size, by its location, by its economic importance, and by what it represents, which is a powerful lesson in the possibilities of democracy.

So I’m here to help work on our common agenda, and to think about President Jokowi’s visit to United States in a few months. I am looking at how we can increase the trade and investment between us, and how we can work togehter on common challenges, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s the challenge of migration, as you’ve seen most recently with the Rohingya. We’re working together whether it’s preventing violent extremism—which represents a challenge to so many countries around the world—or whether it’s working together including within ASEAN to try to meet some of the common opportunities that are before us.

So, we’ve had some good meetings and we’ll continue to have some good meetings today with some of my government counterparts. But this morning at the pesantren and just now this afternoon here at @america, I had an opportunity to meet maybe Indonesia’s greatest resources and that is this country’s young people. Their creativity, their energy, their positive focus on the future gives me great confidence.

I’d be happy to take some questions.

QUESTION: You’re heading to Myanmar, right? Do you have anything in particular that you’re planning to tell the Myanmar government about stepping up to adhere to human rights? Is there anything concrete that you can tell us?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, a couple of things. First of all, of course we’ve been a strong supporter of Myanmar’s democratic transition, and we’ll continue to do that as they head to elections this fall. At the same time, we’re also confronting together the humanitarian crisis with the Rohingya. Because of the conditions where they live, they have put their lives in jeopardy and are taking to the seas to see if they can find better lives somewhere else. Indonesia’s shown great generousity in literally saving many of these people from the dangers of the sea.

But the only sustainable solution to the problem is changing the conditions that let them put their lives at risk at the first place, and that is one of the things we’ll be talking about tomorrow with the government in Myanmar.

QUESTION: I’m wondering about the challenge of democracy in ASEAN. How do you see the challenges of South East Asia, especially in the context of Thailand, visiting Vietnam...what is the biggest threat?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think you have to look at two things. It’s important to look not just at a snapshot, one picture of the moment. You have to look at the moving picture, the directions that things have taken over the last years, not just the last days. I think what we’re seeing in so many countries including in Vietnam is a real movement in the direction of more openness and more democracy, but it’s a work in progress. In Vietnam, there’s no question that people are more free to speak their minds, to gather together, to criticize their government and party, than they’ve ever been. That is real progress. There are 22 million Vietnamese on Facebook and more than 30 million on the internet.

At the same time, we continue to see people detained, arrested, intimidated, or beaten just for expressing their opinion about something.

So it’s a work in progress, but I think the direction is clear. Here, Indonesia’s story and Indonesia as an example, as a country that made an extraordinary transition to democracy, is very powerful and I think it’s a story that can inspire many other countries in the region.

QUESTION: Hi, Sarah from the Wall Street Journal. You said in your speech that the U.S. is ready to offer support in handling the migration, which as you know it’s becoming very (inaudible). Can you explain how the U.S. will offer support?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sure. There are a number of things that we are looking at doing, that we’re working on, including offering assistance through the international migration, the IOM. If the United Nation designates certain people and suggests that we bring them in, if it’s consistent with our laws, that’s something that we can do. We’re in conversation and discussion with all of the relevant governments—including here in Indonesia—about other concrete ways that we can help to share some of these burdens, because Indonesia in taking in so many people is assuming a big burden. And we’re looking at very practical ways in how we can help them assume that burden.

At the same time, this is a regional challenge. We’re encouraging other countries to assume their own responsibilities and also to work together to try and address, as we talked about earlier, some of the root causes of the problems.

So, we’ll be talking to the government in Myanmar about the state of the conditions there, and with Bangladesh. For example, when it comes to some economic migrants, we ought to be able to repatriate them to Bangladesh.

But the most urgent thing is to respond to the immediate humanitarian crisis and to assume our collective responsibility to help people who are desperately in need of that help.

QUESTION: Sir, the Indonesian and Malaysian have already agreed to afford the resettlement. Can you give comment on that? And will you be pushing Myanmar to be more responsible about the Rohingya?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well first of all we deeply appreciate the leadership that Indonesia’s shown in helping to save lives on the seas and to bring people in to Indonesia safety.

Second, yes, as I suggested earlier we will be talking directly to the government in Myanmar about its own responsibilities to improve conditions so that people don’t feel that their only choice is to put their lives at risk by leaving and taking to the sea, putting themselves in the hands of human traffickers and literally jeopardizing their lives.

QUESTION: Could you comment on the U.S. Government’s stance on the existence of ADB and economic cooperation within Asian countries, especially China and (inaudible)?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: I had an opportunity to talk about that a little bit before. We welcome more investment, especially in infrastructure. It’s a critical need and if we’re able to generate more of that including through the investment infrastructure bank, that’s positive. But the quality of the investment matters as much as the quantity. So, we want to make sure that the standards we’ve set over the years when it comes to environmental protection, labour rights, intellectual property, and the governance of the institution that is lending the money itself, (we want to ensure) that all of those meet high standards, not low standards.

Thank you.