US seeks more from China, Asian Muslim nations, on Islamic State

US seeks more from China, Asian Muslim nations, on Islamic State
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives prior to a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, at a hotel in Vienna October 15, 2014.

WASHINGTON/JAKARTA - US Secretary of State John Kerry will seek greater cooperation from China and Southeast Asia's main Muslim states, Indonesia and Malaysia, in the campaign against Islamic State and staunching the flow of foreign fighters to the militant group, US and Asian officials said.

China's most senior diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, is expected in Kerry's home city of Boston on Friday and Saturday, a Chinese diplomat said. Kerry is then due in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, for Monday's inauguration of newly-elected president Joko Widodo.

The trip to Indonesia is significant on several fronts. A fast-growing beacon of moderate Islam and Southeast Asia's largest economy, Indonesia exerts enormous influence in a region that has seen growing numbers of fighters traveling to Syria to join Islamic State, also known as ISIL.

Indonesian security crackdowns have weakened and dispersed militant groups, helping to transform the country's image since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks when it was an epicenter of Islamist militancy and breeding ground for the likes of Jemaah Islamiah, which carried out the 2002 Bali bombing and other attacks on Western targets.

A senior US administration official said the focus of talks with Indonesian leaders would be on building a relationship with the new government and discussing ways to stop the flow of fighters from Indonesia and Muslim-majority Malaysia.

In Jakarta, Kerry will also meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Malaysia's foreign ministry said the two would discuss the global coalition against Islamic State.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have also said they will attend the inauguration.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and other leaders have also been invited but have yet to confirm.

The United States has assembled a coalition of what it says are more than 40 countries and has carried out air strikes in territory held by the group in Iraq and Syria.

US fighter and bomber planes made 14 raids against Islamic State targets near the Syrian town of Kobani on Wednesday and Thursday.

In Boston with Yang and again in Jakarta with Indonesian officials, Kerry is expected to discuss expanded intelligence cooperation, including tracking militant movements and financing, say analysts familiar with the administration's thinking.

The fight against Islamic State offers a rare convergence of security interests for Beijing and Washington, and a break from their more typical enmity on sensitive geopolitical issues, from Iran to the South China Sea.

China has significant energy interests in Iraq and is also troubled by what it says are domestic Islamist militants.

Its state media has reported that militants from the western region of Xinjiang, which abuts Pakistan and Afghanistan, have fled from the country to get "terrorist training" from Islamic State fighters for attacks at home.

IMPORTANT PARTNER

The head of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, has said around 1,000 recruits from India to the Pacific may have joined Islamic State in Syria or Iraq.

Security officials and analysts estimate they include more than 100 citizens of Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines.

Malaysian and Indonesian militants have also discussed forming a 100-strong Malay-speaking Islamic State unit in Syria, according to a report from a security group released last month.

About 160 Australian jihadists are thought to be in Iraq or Syria, several in leadership positions, say security experts.

The head of the US Marine Corps said that it had been expanding its relationship with the Indonesian army over the past four to six months and could, along with Australia, form an alliance for joint operations and military exercises.

"They're a pretty important partner," Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos said, citing ties with Indonesia in the Asia-Pacific region, where worries have been mounting about Chinese assertiveness over territorial claims.

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