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Indonesian Leader Continues ASEAN Trip - 2001-08-22

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri stopped in Vietnam and Laos Wednesday as part of a nine-nation tour of southeast Asia. It is the Indonesian leader's first trip abroad since becoming head of state last month.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri spent most of Wednesday in Hanoi where she met with senior Vietnamese leaders before leaving for Laos.

She also witnessed the signing of an agreement for a state-run Vietnamese company to supply rice to Indonesia. Vietnam's official news media praised the visit and noted that trade between the two countries has reached $600 million.

On Tuesday, the Indonesian leader visited the Philippines where she met with President Gloria Arroyo to discuss economic and security issues. Both countries face violent separatist conflicts and mounting financial troubles.

President Megawati noted the two leaders have similar backgrounds. Both are daughters of former presidents and came to power after their predecessors were removed from office for corruption and incompetence.

Few agreements are expected out of the Indonesian leader's week-long tour, as it is more a getting-acquainted trip.

Tommi Lagowo is with Jakarta's Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says it is a long-standing tradition for leaders in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to visit fellow member nations. "This might be reflective not only for Indonesia but also for other member countries of ASEAN that ASEAN is still the main consideration for each of these countries in formulating or pursuing its foreign policy," he said.

Mr. Lagowo added the tour is also aimed at reassuring Indonesia's neighbors that President Megawati is giving serious attention to the problems in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation.

The Indonesian president is not the only Asian leader traveling. Shortly after Ms. Megawati left Manila, Philippine President Arroyo began a trip to Brunei and Singapore. And shortly after she left Hanoi, Vietnam's President Tran Duc Luong began a visit to South Korea.