Subject: Reuters: Rumsfeld's Indonesia visit cements US military ties

Rumsfeld's Indonesia visit cements US military ties

By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent Reuters

Tuesday, June 6, 2006; 10:53 AM

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hailed restored U.S. military ties with Indonesia, but was told that America was seen as "overbearing" when it appeared to be pushing its anti-terrorism policies on others.

The Pentagon chief heard the blunt message from Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, who said "as the largest Muslim country, we are very aware of the perception or misperception that the United States is overbearing."

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Rumsfeld, on the final leg of a three-country Asian tour, called his host's advice that specific anti-terrorism measures be left to U.S. partners "not unreasonable at all." He said Washington did not insist on one-size-fits-all policies.

His visit to Jakarta came six months after the State Department waived Congressional restrictions that had cut U.S. military aid and arms sales to Indonesia imposed in 1992 over human rights abuses by Indonesian forces in East Timor.

Rumsfeld said the restoration of military ties was "good for both countries," adding that Washington intended to give Jakarta sustained access to American training and equipment.

U.S. and Indonesian forces "need to know each other and be able to communicate well with each other and understand each other when there is a disaster," Rumsfeld said after talks with Sudarsono and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The world's most populous Muslim country with 220 million people, Indonesia is valued by the United States as a strategic power and proof that Islam and democracy are compatible.


However, U.S.-based Asian security analyst Dana Dillon said that Indonesia, which has home-grown Muslim extremists to worry about, faced risks in appearing too close to U.S. policies.

"Indonesia intends to chart its own course for the future and that is also in America's best interests," said the Heritage Institute scholar.

A U.S. military officer said the training would resume with exercises to help the archipelago nation in disaster relief and maritime security and with the sale of spare parts for C-130 transport planes and patrol ships -- shortages of which hampered Jakarta's response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Indonesian presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said Yudhoyono, a U.S.-trained general, had told Rumsfeld he wanted the military relationship to "become permanent because there are efforts in Washington to change these good relations."

Some U.S. Congressmen and human rights activists oppose the resumption of military ties because they say Jakarta's army has not broken with abusive practices blamed for tens of thousands of deaths in East Timor, a former Portuguese colony which became independent from Indonesia in 1999.

"Further normalizing the military relationship with Indonesia will only undermine its democratic reform and efforts to achieve accountability for past human rights violations in East Timor, West Papua and elsewhere," said the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN), a U.S. rights group.

But a senior Pentagon official said the rupture of contacts with Indonesian troops meant lost opportunities for American trainers to "help them be modern and professional."

"Our training involves civil-military relations (and) the laws of war," said the official. "A huge proportion of it is to bring them up to reasonable standards of conduct."

Despite the blunt message to Rumsfeld, the Indonesian defense chief said Jakarta would study "limited" participation in a U.S.-led program to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that Indonesia has been wary of joining.

"Perhaps we can agree on a limited framework of cooperation on an ad hoc basis," Sudarsono said when asked if Indonesia would take part in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, a loose 60-nation group formed to stop the transfer of missiles, nuclear materials and other banned weapons.

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