Despite the beautiful backdrop, Ronald Reagan may find his stay in Bali less restful than presidential advisors had hoped. The President stopped here en route to next week's economic summit in Tokyo. In part, the stop was designed to let Mr. Reagan recover from a 14-hour plane ride amid Bali's balmy clime, swaying palms, and azure water.
The stop also allows Mr. Reagan to make his first visit to Indonesia, the leader of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Also gathered here are the foreign ministers of ASEAN's six noncommunist member-nations -- which collectively form the US's fifth-largest trading partner.
Reagan's arrival in Bali was marred by a flap over press freedom in Indonesia. Two Australian journalists were escorted off the chartered plane carrying the White House press corps Tuesday by Indonesian officials and refused entrance into the country.
The dispute raised the issue of Indonesia's overall human rights performance which has been widely criticized by members of Congress and private groups.
The controversy was disturbing to the Reagan administration because the White House prefers to deal with human rights issues out of the public eye in what it calls ``quiet diplomacy.''
Meanwhile, Philippine Vice-President Salvadore Laurel, speaking to reporters in advance of his meeting with Reagan Thursday, called on the President to clear up ``cobwebs of doubt'' about Reagan's support for Corazon Aquino's government. Mr. Laurel also said the $150 million in new financial aid the Reagan administration is proposing for the Philippines is ``certainly not enough.''
Laurel added that deposed President Ferdinand Marcos ``can come home'' after the new leadership team has a chance to ``stabilize the country.'' Mr. Marcos currently is in exile in Hawaii.
Laurel said he was told by US Secretary of State George Shultz that during their weekend phone call President Reagan told Marcos he ``should forget all plans to return to power.''
Other ASEAN leaders that Reagan will talk to have disagreements with the US over methods of terrorism control, US subsidies for rice producers and other alleged US protectionism, and the degree of protection US patents and copyrights should receive in ASEAN nations. The US and Indonesian also disagree on how much of a threat Vietnam poses to Southeast Asia.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Mochtar Kusumaatmadja said Wednesday that because of the amount of resources used in its occupation of Cambodia, Vietnam is ``no longer that threatening'' to the rest of Southeast Asia.
Despite the contentious issues that are expected to be raised at today's meetings, US relations with ASEAN are generally positive, officials on both sides say.
``Obviously there are some problems but overall relations are very strong,'' a senior administration official said Wednesday after bilateral meetings between Mr. Shultz and the ASEAN foreign ministers.
And there is a healthy degree of interdependence in the relationship. The US strongly supports ASEAN efforts to find a political settlement to the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia. US attempts to recover servicemen still missing in Southeast Asia also depend heavily on ASEAN assistance. In both cases, Indonesia's close relations with Vietnam are very helpful.
And with oil and other commodity prices falling, the ASEAN nations want the US to invest more in their countries and insure that their goods have free access to US markets.
The White House had billed the trip as a celebration of the fact that ``the winds of freedom'' are blowing in the region.
That rhetoric contrasted sharply with Indonesian President Suharto's banning of Australian journalists from covering the Bali meetings. He moved in response to an Australian newspaper story which compared his 20-year rule with the alleged corruption of deposed President Marcos. Earlier in the day a US journalist working for the New York Times was refused entry.
Issues of the Asian Wall Street Journal and International Herald Tribune sold here Wednesday each had an article critical of the Suharto administration which had been obliterated with a heavy layer of ink and a small blank piece of paper.
The winds of freedom are blowing, the Indonesian foreign minister said, ``but some people don't like the wind.''
``We are not against press freedom but we don't have to like it. When a hurricane hits, you don't have to like it.''