Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presided over the signing of a bilateral defense cooperation deal Monday in Tokyo on Widodo’s first trip outside Southeast Asia since taking power in October.
“We agreed to strengthen the strategic partnership between our two countries, which are major maritime democracies in Asia,” Abe told reporters in Tokyo. “I told the president of my expectations that a developed Indonesia would contribute even more to the peace and stability of the region and the world.”
The respective defense ministers signed a memorandum agreeing on ministerial meetings, cooperation on capacity building, and cooperation on defense equipment and technology.
The deal is the latest in a series for Abe, who has sought to strengthen security ties with Southeast Asian governments, some of which share with Japan the headache of territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China. Widodo will head to China on Wednesday for the second leg of his trip.
Japan signed an agreement to bolster defense ties with the Philippines in January, following on from previous agreements with Vietnam and Singapore. It has delivered coast guard vessels to Indonesia, agreed to do so for the Philippines and is in talks to provide them to Vietnam.
While Indonesia has sought to stay out of its neighbors’ spats with China and is not an official claimant to areas in dispute, it has said that China’s interpretation of its nine dash-line map -- the basis for its territorial claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea -- is seeping into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
Abe and Widodo first met during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing in November. Widodo’s trip includes lunch with Emperor Akihito, a speech to a business forum and a visit to Toyota Motor Corp.