EMMERSON: Well I think it's important to begin with the notion that this is all very atmospheric, it's all very symbolic. The administration in Washington is barely installed and many of the positions in the US government have not even been filled yet. And so, we're in a kind of honeymoon period. I don't think it will last terribly wrong and I think that the basic questions that still remain on the table, a catastrophic global economy, a situation in the Middle East with regard to Palestine that seems to be at some kind of bloody dead-end, with no real daylight as to how one might set up the vaunted two-state solution and that issue of course is of vital importance to many people in the Muslim world. I mean I could go on, so I think we shouldn't exaggerate the honeymoon into a marriage.
LAM: Indeed, as you say it is a honeymoon period but might Indonesia prove to be a useful partner after the unpopularity of the US in many Muslim countries during the Bush years?
EMMERSON: Absolutely. It's not just a question of unpopularity because we have to remember that in some respects the relationship between the Bush administration and the SBY, the Susilo Bambang Yudhyono administration in Jakarta was not all that bad, particularly on security matters. But Indonesia is after all, the fourth largest country in the world, it's the third largest democracy, it has more Muslims than any other country, these are all matter of public knowledge. And it seems to me on those grounds alone, we really do need in the United States to have good relations with Indonesia to the extent possible.
LAM: And as you heard in that earlier report the Indonesian Foreign Minister seems to be speaking for many Indonesians, saying that they can't wait for President Obama to visit. How much weight do you put on the Obama connection in Indonesia-US relations?
EMMERSON: Well I think the weight is pretty substantial although again it is symbolic. I mean, I first visited Indonesia in 1967, that's the same year in which Obama himself first visited Indonesia. He was a very young child. I met his mother. I never, I don't believe I ever met him and in any case he would have been so young at that time, I'm not sure I could have had a conversation with him. So there is a kind of symbolic background here, the biography of the President of the United States, the fact that his middle name is Hussain, his first name is Barak right, from Baraka, the Arabic, which is known of course in the Indonesian language to an extent as well. These are all positives. But what I'm trying to emphasise is that atmospherics is one thing, actually concretely achieving specific measures that would strengthen the relationship and help to solve problems is another matter. I am encouraged by the announcement that the Peace Corps will be reintroduced into Indonesia.
LAM: Indeed, and it also seems that the US is poised to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, so surely that goes some way towards the concrete steps that you were talking about?
EMMERSON: Well yes, and no if I may respond a little bit enigmatically. On the one hand, I think it is now very likely that the Obama administration will, after it's undergone the review in Washington to which Hilary referred, that the Obama administration will indeed probably sign onto the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. But let's remember the Australian example. As you well know, the Australians also signed on but they did so with several reservations and they managed to gain access to the East Asia Summit. My own best guess is that although the United States will probably sign the treaty, it's another matter entirely as to whether the United States will actually follow that up by trying to join the East Asia Summit. And we ought to remember that the treaty is untested. It's basically a series of words. Its emphasis on sovereignty, on non-interference, this language, after all the treaty dates from 1976, there's concern about foreign intervention - is somewhat daunting to an American administration that still cares about human rights, for example human rights in Burma.
LAM: But at least it will be a small step away from the Bush policy of pre-emption?
EMMERSON: Yes if you take the language in the treaty as binding, but remember, the Australians included reservations that said this shall in no way detract from our obligations and commitments under other multi-lateral arrangements, it shall not affect our relations with those who happen to have signed the treaty that are not inside Southeast Asia, including for example North Korea. I mean how can the United States be bound by a treaty that claims North Korean sovereignty?