U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday he would explore deepening defense ties during a visit to Indonesia, a country that appears increasingly ready to assert its sovereignty in the contested South China Sea.
Mattis, ahead of talks in Jakarta, raised the possibility of greater maritime cooperation. An aide noted that Indonesia was also considering purchasing Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-16 fighter jets, in a deal that could be worth billions.
“This is a very strategic partnership,” Mattis said, noting Indonesia was the world’s third largest democracy and the most populous Muslim-majority nation. It is also a vast archipelago of over 17,000 islands, with a strategic maritime reach.