WASHINGTON >> The Biden administration today approved a nearly $14 billion arms sale to Indonesia, as the U.S. presses ahead with steps it believes will help counter China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.
The State Department announced the $13.9 billion sale of advanced fighter jets while Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Australia on a visit also intended to underscore the U.S. determination not to allow China free rein in the Pacific, even as developments between Russia and Ukraine demand attention.
The sale to Indonesia of up to 36 F-15 fighter jets, engines and related equipment, including munitions and communications systems, follows a mid-December trip to Jakarta by Blinken, who at the time lauded close U.S.-Indonesia ties despite human rights concerns that have delayed previous arms sales to the country.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of an important regional partner that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” the department said in a statement.
“It is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Indonesia in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability,” it said.
The statement made no mention of China but successive U.S. administrations have sought to enlist Indonesia, the world’s largest predominantly Muslim democracy, in its campaign to ward off Chinese attempts to boost its influence in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Pacific.
Indonesia hosts the headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, some members of which are struggling to deal with Chinese moves into disputed areas of the South China Sea, which is a major international shipping route.
U.S. military sales to Indonesia have, however, come under scrutiny and been delayed before over human rights issues. There was no mention of those issues in the State Department statement.