Pence praises moderate Islam in Indonesia

On Thursday, Pence toured the Grand Mosque in Jakarta, Southeast Asia's largest, and said Indonesia's moderate form of Islam should serve as an example to other nations.


Pence, an evangelical Christian, has sought to use his trip to soften some of the harsher edges of rhetoric about the Muslim world used by U.S. President Donald Trump, who has frequently railed against "radical Islamic terrorism".


As tensions threaten to boil over between the United States and North Korea, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence is en route to Australia in a visit expected to focus on regional security and trade.


Indonesia is the latest stop on an Asian tour by Pence that aims to reaffirm traditional US alliances at a time when Donald Trump's presidency has raised questions about the strength of the USA commitment to the region.


Pence arrives in Australia late on Friday for the last stop on his 10-day tour of USA allies in the Asia-Pacific region that has included a series of roundtables with leading business executives in South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia.


"His goal is basically to meet with our allies and close partners in the region as part of the new administration reaching out and getting the benefit of the views and insight of our partners about the region", Mr Caruso said.


Pence will also meet Australian business executives in Sydney on Saturday, following similar meetings in Seoul, Tokyo, and Jakarta that have been thick with executives from Fortune 100 companies.


He later met with leaders from a range of Indonesia's many faith communities, including Christians, Buddhists and Hindus, reports Reuters.


"We will work with President Jokowi to reduce barriers to trade and investments and to create a truly level playing field where all our businesses have equal opportunity and market access", Pence said.


Pence also called for cooperation on fighting terrorism and maintaining freedom of navigation in the region.


USA firms have faced a tough business climate in Indonesia, with companies like Google and mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc. getting embroiled in disputes with authorities there.


After kicking off his stop in Indonesia by praising the country's moderate Islam as "an inspiration", he visited Istiqlal Mosque, which can accommodate 200,000 worshippers and whose vast, white dome towers over downtown Jakarta.


Widodo's approach to foreign policy has been led more by economic interests than geopolitical considerations: he has pursued increased trade and investment from China but keeps a diplomatic distance from Beijing and established a strategic partnership with Washington under former President Barack Obama.