Subject: Megawati supports Japanese Defense Forces role in E. Timor

Kyodo Newswire [Japan] September 11, 2001

Megawati supports Japanese PKO role in E. Timor


President Megawati Sukarnoputri on Tuesday expressed understanding of Japanese plans to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel to East Timor next year to take part in U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKO) in talks with Japanese Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani.

'We hope Japan can mediate between Indonesia and the local government (in East Timor),' she told Nakatani at the State Palace.

The backing of Indonesia for dispatching SDF personnel is expected to advance discussions in Japan on making provisions for the participation.

The United Nations plans to maintain peacekeeping troops in East Timor for two years after the half-island gains independence next year.

Indonesia, which occupied East Timor for over two decades until the territory voted for independence in 1999, still exerts considerable influence on East Timor's situation.

Nakatani also touched on rampant piracy in the Malacca Strait, the busy shipping lane sandwiched between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia.

Describing the pirate attacks as a 'serious matter for Japan,' he expressed Japan's willingness to take part in antipiracy measures including SDF participation in joint exercises.

Megawati said the two countries should boost cooperation in fighting terrorism and drug smuggling, and voiced hope for Japan's security role in the region.

Nakatani, who arrived in Indonesia on Monday, became the first Japanese cabinet minister to hold talks with Megawati since she assumed the presidency in July.

He will visit East Timor on Wednesday to meet with local leaders and United Nations officials to discuss the PKO issue.

On Monday, Nakatani said Japan's Defense Agency plans to launch a panel as early as next week to review the country's defense capacity in light of recent changes in the global security environment.

Speaking to reporters at a Jakarta hotel, Nakatani said the panel may hold its first meeting next Tuesday to discuss such matters as modification of the structure of the SDF and its equipment to expand its role.

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