President Joko Widodo of Indonesia on the South China Sea, the environment, and Islam and democracy

“Indonesia is not a party to the [South China Sea] dispute,” said Indonesian President Joko Widodo in a forum at Brookings today, “but we have legitimate interests in peace and stability there.” President Widodo spoke at the Alan and Jane Batkin International Leaders Forum and was hosted by the Center for East Asia Policy Studies.

Read Joseph Liow’s analysis of Widodo’s visit to D.C. and what he takes home to Indonesia

In reference to the current tensions in the South China Sea between Chinese naval vessels and U.S. warships, President Widodo added that “We believe that the sea [is] a public good. We reject any attempt by any state to control and dominate the sea and turn it into an arena for strategy competition … we need to talk closely to ensure good order at sea, prevent incidents, and ensure freedom of navigation.” Watch his remarks on this point below:

President Widodo also spoke on environmental concerns, stating that, as a maritime nation, Indonesia “launched a major crackdown on illegal fishing.” He also said that “we look forward to working with all the parties at the next COP21 meeting in Paris.” Watch:

Finally, the president of Indonesia described what he called “two important assets which stabilize and anchor our society.” These are, he said, Islam and democracy. As the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, and the globe’s third-largest democracy, “we are proud,” he said, “that Islam in Indonesia plays an important role in consolidating democracy.”

“Ours is a strongly moderate and tolerant form of Islam,” he said. Watch the video:

During his remarks, the president also reviewed progress on two reform challenges that his government has pursued: infrastructure programs and deregulation. Senior Fellow Richard Bush, director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies, moderated questions following President Widodo’s remarks. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) delivered opening remarks.

More information about the event is available on the event’s page.

And visit our topic page for Brookings experts’ research and commentary on Indonesia.