Blinken to visit Indonesia and Malaysia next week

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Stockholm, Sweden, December 2, 2021. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS/Files

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JAKARTA/KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to visit Indonesia and Malaysia next week as the Biden administration ramps up engagement in Southeast Asia, a bloc it sees as central to its efforts to counter China's growing influence.

I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesia's director general for American and European Affairs, told reporters on Monday that Blinken will visit Jakarta on Dec. 13-14, the third and most senior U.S. official to visit the region in two months.

Two Southeast Asian diplomatic sources, who requested anonymity, said Blinken was also expected to visit Malaysia on Dec. 14-15 in his maiden trip to the region.

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During his Indonesia leg, Blinken is due to deliver a speech on health, investment, and infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific, Ngurah said. Blinken will also participate virtually in the Bali Democracy Forum on Dec. 9.

It was not immediately clear whether Blinken will be visiting other countries in the region. A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment.

At a meeting with Southeast Asian foreign ministers at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September, Blinken said Washington would soon release a new strategy for the wider Indo-Pacific region, that would build "on our shared vision for a free, open, interconnected, resilient and secure region."

Daniel Kritenbrink, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said last week in Thailand that Washington was not asking its allies to choose between it and China, promoting instead a shared vision of a rules-based order "where large countries don't bully the weak." Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also visited the region in mid-November promoting economies ties.

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Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by John Geddie

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