U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday for a goodwill visit to the world's most populous Muslim nation, where President Barack Obama is a popular figure, despite some anti-U.S. protests.
Some rallies by hard-line Islamic groups and students opposing Clinton's visit are planned, but this leg of her Asian tour is expected to go smoothly given good government-to-government relations and Indonesian pride in the fact that Obama lived in Jakarta for four years as a child.
Clinton arrived in the Indonesian capital from Japan on Wednesday afternoon, as part of a four-country Asian tour that also takes in South Korea and China.
Obama's Indonesian ties
Playing on Obama's Indonesian ties, about 50 schoolchildren from the U.S. president's old school, waving U.S. and Indonesian flags, sang traditional Indonesian folk songs as Clinton walked across the tarmac at an airport in the suburbs of Jakarta.
"The people of Indonesia have a strong affinity for this new administration and he (Obama) would like to build on that goodwill," a Clinton aide said during the flight from Japan.
Clinton wanted to hold Indonesia up as an example of a country that had made a successful transition to democracy over the past decade after decades of authoritarian rule, aides said.
Her visit to Indonesia is also in line with Obama's desire to forge a better U.S. relationship with the Muslim world, where many of the policies of former president George W. Bush's administration, including the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, were deeply unpopular.
Indonesia was no exception to that, but Washington aided Jakarta in efforts to quash its own domestic militants, Bush lifted sanctions on military aid and sales imposed over human rights issues, and there was cooperation in other areas.
Small, radical fringe
However, while most Indonesian Muslims are moderate, the country has a small, radical fringe.
About 100 Muslim students some chanting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) held a rally at Jakarta's presidential palace, some throwing shoes at a picture of Clinton.
"Do not let the U.S. dictate to us, especially on our foreign policy in the Middle East and Palestine," said a protester at another small rally in the capital.
The police have deployed 2,800 officers in the capital for Clinton's visit.