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Obama to Host Indonesia’s Widodo at White House

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) gestures during a bilateral meeting with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (L) Nov. 10, 2014, in in Beijing, China, where both leaders were attending an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Climate change issues, trade and maritime cooperation in the South China Sea top the agenda when Indonesian President Joko Widodo meets Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House.

Widodo is the first Indonesian leader to visit the United States in a decade. He took office a year ago as an outsider, promising change in the world's most populous Muslim country, but like Obama, when he assumed power six years ago, has encountered economic difficulties.

The Indonesian leader is also looking to attract more American investment in his country, where only 17 percent of a population of 250 million people are connected to the Internet, a ratio that puts Indonesia in the lowest quarter of a global ranking. During a five-day visit to the United States Widodo is also is meeting with business leaders, fund managers and technology and mining executives in Washington and San Francisco.

FILE - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo leads a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, March 4, 2015.
FILE - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo leads a cabinet meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, March 4, 2015.

The White House says Obama, who lived in Indonesia for nearly five years as a child, would also discuss defense and maritime issues.

Indonesia balances its relations between the United States and China, but has been concerned about Beijing's maritime claims in the South China Sea. Widodo is asking Washington for help to upgrade Indonesia's coast guard.

Obama is likely to press Widodo to improve Indonesia's climate change record as it struggles with forest fires that blanket parts of the country, and region, with smog. Indonesia is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Amnesty International USA said in a statement it hopes Obama will also confront Widodo about Indonesia's human rights record. The group says the Indonesian leader has promised improvements, but that change has been slow.

The group said prisoners of conscience are languishing in Indonesian prisons and noted that Indonesia's Aceh province last week imposed flogging sentences for consensual sex outside marriage and same-sex relations.