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Tea, Nickel on the Agenda as Biden Hosts Indonesia's President

The world's third-largest democracy is a key player in Southeast Asia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi inspect relief supplies for Gaza at Halim Perdanakusuma air base, Jakarta, Nov. 4, 2023.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi inspect relief supplies for Gaza at Halim Perdanakusuma air base, Jakarta, Nov. 4, 2023.
AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will host Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the White House on Monday, one day before the U.S. leader leaves for San Francisco to attend a summit of Asian leaders.

The two presidents will share an afternoon tea and meet with top advisers, according to senior administration officials who insisted on anonymity to preview the schedule.

They will also talk about ways to expand the trade of critical minerals like nickel, which can be used to produce electric vehicle batteries. Indonesia is the world's largest producer of nickel.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said they "will explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on the clean energy transition, advance economic prosperity, bolster regional peace and stability, and reinforce our people-to-people ties."

Biden's meeting with Widodo comes shortly before he sits down with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Indonesia is the world's third-largest democracy — after India and the United States — and a key player in Southeast Asia. The U.S. has been working to strengthen relationships in the region in hopes of deterring China's influence, and Vice President Kamala Harris attended a summit there in September.

However, events in the Middle East are expected to intrude on the agenda.

Widodo will be arriving in the U.S. after making a previous stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for a summit of Muslim leaders. While there, he joined in calls for a ceasefire and denounced the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza, which began after Hamas attacked on Oct. 7.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country, and a senior administration official said "their views and their engagement are critical" on the war between Israel and Hamas. The official said Biden would seek to have Widodo "play a larger role" in the Middle East, although it was unclear exactly what that would entail.

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