• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Indonesian Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla agreed Saturday to work together in fighting Islamic extremism, Japanese officials said.

Their agreement comes at a time when a spate of attacks by Islamic extremists, including the recent killing of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group, has fueled global concerns over the growing threat of terrorism.

The role of Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, is deemed important in efforts to combat Muslim extremists. Japan, for its part, has been taking steps to help reduce poverty in Southeast Asian countries as poverty is widely seen as a major factor in feeding terrorism, political analysts said.

Kishida and Kalla, who met on the sidelines of the U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, underscored the need to deal with extremist groups and the importance of being “moderate,” the officials said.

In an interview with Kyodo News, Kalla, referring to Indonesia as a “moderate” Muslim country, said he sees cooperation between his country and Japan as vital to ensure security in Asia and to “reduce the impact of South China Sea” disputes.

Parts of Southeast Asia are known for the active operations of militant groups. The South China Sea has also been a source of tensions between several Southeast Asian nations — notably Vietnam and the Philippines — and China due to overlapping territorial claims in the sea.

Kalla said he and Kishida agreed to strengthen their “strategic relationship” and boost bilateral trade, given that Indonesia and Japan are both maritime nations, the officials said.

Kalla was quoted by the officials as saying he understands that Japanese companies’ interest in investing in Indonesia is high.

Touching on other areas of cooperation, Indonesia’s vice president expressed his readiness to offer his country’s help in mediating between North Korea and other countries including Japan.

With Indonesia having “good relations” with both North Korea and South Korea, Kalla said his country has invited the North to attend the Asia-Africa Conference it will host next month as part of efforts to bring together the North and other countries.

Asked if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would come to the conference, Kalla said Indonesia has “not yet confirmed” but that the North Korean side is “eager to come.”

It is unknown whether Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will attend the 60th commemoration of the conference in Bandung in West Java Province.

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