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Obama Praises U.S.-Indonesia Relationship During Trip to Boyhood Home Obama Praises U.S.-Indonesia Relationship During Trip to Boyhood Home

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Obama Praises U.S.-Indonesia Relationship During Trip to Boyhood Home

Volcanic ash from Mount Merapi may cut Obama's visit short.

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President Obama returns to Jakarta, Indonesia, where he spent four years of his childhood.(Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images)

Updated at 10:10 a.m. on November 9.

President Obama arrived in his boyhood home in Jakarta, Indonesia, today for the first time during his presidency as part of his 10-day swing through Asia. After his arrival, the president headed into bilateral talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono before a state dinner this evening.

 

Obama's moved his departure time up by two hours because of travel complications caused by volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Merapi. He will still be delivering his much anticipated speech at the University of Indonesia. 

(What the Volcanic Ash Looks Like)

During a press conference, Obama acknowledged his return to the place where he spent four years of his childhood, though he remarked that much was different. “Much has been made of the fact that this marks my return to where I lived as a young boy,” he said. “I will tell you, though, that I barely recognized it as I was driving down the streets.”

 

The president also talked about deepening the U.S.'s relationship with Indonesia through expanded trade, educational relationships, and work on energy and climate change research. The themes of Obama's speech in Jakarta echoed those of his comments in India, the previous stop on his trip.

Getting specific, Obama said the U.S. hopes to become Indonesia’s largest trading partner, up from its current No. 3 spot. “I informed [Yudhoyono] we don’t like being number three, we want to be number one!” he said. He said he also hopes to double the number of Indonesian-U.S. educational exchanges within the next five years.

The president also commended the people of Indonesia for standing up against last week’s elections in Myanmar, which he called “neither free nor fair.” Both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have publicly condemned the leaders of the country and called for the release of several political prisoners.

Obama plans to remain in Jakarta overnight so he can lay a wreath at a cemetery for Heroes’ Day and visit the Istiqlal Mosque tomorrow, but press secretary Robert Gibbs informed pool reporters earlier today that the departure might be moved up to avoid the ash cloud from Mount Merapi.

 
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