KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to visit Indonesia and Malaysia next week as the Biden administration ramps up engagement in South-east Asia, a bloc it sees as central to its efforts to counter China’s growing influence.

I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, Indonesia’s director general for American and European Affairs, told reporters today that Blinken will visit Jakarta on December 13-14, the third and most senior US official to visit the region in two months.

Two South-east Asian diplomatic sources, who requested anonymity, said Blinken was also expected to visit Malaysia on December 14-15 in his maiden trip to the region.

During his Indonesia leg, Blinken is due to deliver a speech on health, investment, and infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific, Ngurah said. Blinken will also participate virtually in the Bali Democracy Forum on December 9.

It was not immediately clear whether Blinken will be visiting other countries in the region. A US embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment.

At a meeting with South-east Asian foreign ministers at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, Blinken said Washington would soon release a new strategy for the wider Indo-Pacific region, that would build “on our shared vision for a free, open, interconnected, resilient and secure region.”

Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for East Asia, said last week in Thailand that Washington was not asking its allies to choose between it and China, promoting instead a shared vision of a rules-based order “where large countries don’t bully the weak.”

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also visited the region in mid-November promoting economies ties. — Reuters