Subject: AP: US determined to restore ties with Indonesian military, naval chief says

RT: Jakarta wants help,but not troops,in Malacca Strait

AP

Friday May 6, 7:48 AM

U.S. determined to restore ties with Indonesian military, naval chief says

The United States is determined to normalize military ties with Indonesia, America's top commander in the Pacific said Friday, despite accusations by human rights groups that Jakarta's armed forces are continuing to commit abuses.

"The fact that I'm here meeting with leaders of this country is a good demonstration of the fact that we are re-establishing military-to-military ties that were being held in abeyance for a number of years," Adm. William J. Fallon, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters after meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The armed forces of the two nations cooperated closely in the 1970s and '80s, during the military-backed government of former dictator Suharto. But the Clinton administration imposed a ban on ties in 1999 after Indonesian troops devastated East Timor following a U.N.-organized independence referendum.

The Bush administration now wants to resume full ties with Indonesia's military, which it views as a bulwark against Islamic militancy in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Indonesia also is strategically located in critical sea lanes linking the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

In February, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lifted restrictions on Jakarta's involvement in the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training program.

Restoring the training program, worth about US$600,000 (€463,000) per year, was generally seen as a first step in normalizing military ties.

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Jakarta wants help,but not troops,in Malacca Strait 06 May 2005 08:32:39 GMT Source: Reuters By Achmad Sukarsono

JAKARTA, May 6 (Reuters) - All countries that use the busy Malacca Strait have an obligation to help keep it safe, but only Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia will deploy troops to protect the vital sea lane, Indonesia's military chief said on Friday. The three nations have established joint navy patrols along the strait that slices between mainland Asia and Indonesia's Sumatra island but piracy is a major worry on the waterway that carries nearly a quarter of the world's trade.

"We will not turn a blind eye to the fact that some day we will need some help from other countries," military chief General Endriartono Sutarto told reporters after meeting Admiral William Fallon, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.

"The world has an obligation to contribute to securing the Malacca Strait. But...there will be no troop assistance."

The fear among states bordering the strait that the United States was seeking a policing role was a factor behind the launch last year of coordinated patrols by Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Piracy is a big concern for Asian and Western security forces who warn that terrorists could exploit lawlessness in the strait to launch a crippling attack on global shipping.

Fallon, who said he discussed Malacca Strait security issues with Sutarto, told reporters Washington was offering expertise in the policing of ships and people using the narrow congested waters.

"We have offered to make this information available... and we continue to encourage dialogue between all the nations in the region to enhance their efforts in this area," he said. Japan is another country seeking the elimination of piracy in the strait as most of its oil supplies pass through it.

In November, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi initiated an anti-piracy cooperation agreement that included 15 other Asian countries. But only Japan, Singapore, Laos and Cambodia have signed the agreement that has led to an information sharing centre in Singapore.

It is unclear whether Indonesia, which has sovereignty over most of the pirate-infested waterway, would join the pact soon.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yuri Thamrin, said on Friday the Singapore centre "is beneficial but what is more important is the real cooperation on the ground". Thamrin added that Indonesia would soon establish its own information centre with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) on Batam Island, which like the island-state of Singapore, is located at the southern mouth of the 805-km (500-mile) strait.

The IMB says nearly a third of the 325 reported cases of pirate attacks last year happened in Indonesian waters.

Last week Indonesia said it also opposed the use of mercenaries and private security firms to safeguard commercial ships in the strait.

Armour-plated vessels manned by former special forces, including the famed Gurkha soldiers of Nepal, are accompanying some ships in the waterway, Singaporean and Malaysian media have reported. (additional reporting by Muklis Ali and Telly Nathalia)


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