Obama to travel to Indonesia, Australia

US President Barack Obama will travel to Indonesia with his family next month, returning to the country where he spent four years as a child, the White House said on Monday.

Obama, who has referred to himself as "America's first Pacific president" because of his birth in Hawaii and his years in Indonesia, will also visit Australia during the trip, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that while in Indonesia, Obama will launch a US-Indonesian partnership aimed at broadening and strengthening ties between the United States and the country that is home to the world's largest Muslim population.

Asked whether Obama, to be accompanied by his wife Michelle and two young daughters Sasha and Malia, would visit childhood haunts, Gibbs said: "I'd anticipate that will likely be one of the stops."

Obama's late mother, Ann Dunham, came to Indonesia with her six-year-old son in the late 1960s to join her second husband, an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro.

Obama recounts in his book "Dreams From My Father" being amazed to find the house they moved into on the outskirts of Jakarta had a collection of exotic animals including a monkey, birds of paradise, a cockatoo and several baby crocodiles.

His time in Indonesia was cut short in 1971 when he was sent to Hawaii to live with his grandparents, while his mother stayed with her husband.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the visit reflected "current expectations" in relations with Washington.

"This is about developing a comprehensive partnership between the US and Indonesia in all areas," he told Reuters.

Indradjaya Madewa, a friend of Obama's when they attended the same elementary school, said he hoped the president would visit the school during his visit.

"He remembers me and my family because we were neighbours, as well as classmates for three and a half years," said Madewa, now a 47-year-old businessman.

Gibbs said during the trip, to take place in the second half of March, Obama would also visit the island of Guam, where he would speak to US military personnel.

In Australia, he will mark the 70th anniversary of US-Australian relations and hold talks with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on the global economic recovery, the war in Afghanistan and climate change.

In Canberra, Rudd said details of Obama's trip were still being worked out, but he hoped the president would address the Australian parliament.

"Certainly if it works out that way, I think that would be great," Rudd told reporters, adding former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both addressed parliament during visits.

 

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