Subject: Four years after independence, unrest again threatens East Timor 

Also: Cobra Gold 25 includes Indonesia; Indonesian military to participate in exercise in Thailand

Hassan to U.S. to assure supply of military equipment


WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2006 -- PAGE 12

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda will visit the United States this week, where he is expected to talk up Indonesia's improved human rights record and seek assurances on the supply of military equipment from the U.S., a senior official at the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday

The director for North and Central American affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Harri Purwanto, said the visit was part of efforts to boost Indonesia's military capability by capitalizing on Jakarta's improved military ties with the U.S

"Pak Hassan will hold official talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during his visit. We hope Indonesia will benefit from improved relations and can improve its military capacity building and supply of military equipment from the U.S.," he told The Jakarta Post from Ottawa, Canada, on Tuesday

He said the visit also would strengthen the strategic partnership between Indonesia and the U.S. by defining common interests and working toward them

The United States imposed restrictions on military sales and cooperation with Indonesia over concerns about rights abuses committed by the Indonesian armed forces in Timor Leste (formerly East Timor) in 1991. The U.S. Congress imposed various restrictions on military ties with Indonesia since 1992

The ban forced Indonesia to look for new arms suppliers and the country purchased four Sukhoi jets from Russia last year, and also has bought military equipment from "gray markets"

However, considering Indonesia is a strategic partner in the war against terrorism, last November the U.S State Department issued a waiver removing all remaining congressional restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia

In February, the Bush administration proposed an increase in foreign military financing for Indonesia

Two months ago, Rice said during a visit to Jakarta that Indonesia had made progress in combating military corruption. As part of these closer ties, a senior Indonesian Military delegation was dispatched to Washington to discuss defense and security

Also, Indonesia was recently voted onto the newly established UN Human Rights Council, with the country claiming its membership was proof the international community recognized its progress in protecting human rights

But for some in Indonesia, the Americans are not moving quickly enough

On April 9, known arms suppliers for the Indonesian Military and two Indonesian Air Force officers were arrested by the FBI when they allegedly tried to make an illegal US$40 million arms purchase from an unnamed U.S. company

The subsequent indictment said the group went to Honolulu to buy 245 air-to-air Sidewinder missiles, 882 Heckler & Koch MP5 guns, 880 HK 9mm handguns, 16 HK sniper rifles, 5,000 rounds of ammunition and an aviation radar system

Harri said that besides bilateral issues, such as trade and cooperation in fighting terrorism, Hassan and Rice also would discuss global and regional issues, including the U.S. role in Asia and the Pacific

Hassan is scheduled to visit Canada, the U.S. and Qatar during his trip from May 16-25. He will arrive in Ottawa on May 17 before leaving for Washington the following day

In Canada, Hassan will meet with his Canadian counterpart Peter Mackay, as well as leaders of the Canadian senate and parliament, to discuss bilateral trade and political ties between the two countries

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Ottawa/Jakarta Copyright 2006 The Jakarta Post


Cobra Gold 25 includes Indonesia

Thailand kicked off its 25th annual Cobra Gold joint military exercise with the United States, including participants from Singapore, Japan and for the first time from Indonesia.

"This year, in addition to participation by Thailand and the United States, we are again honoured to include Japanese and Singaporean participants. Also, we welcome for the first time the participation of Indonesia," said Ralph Boyce, US ambassador to Thailand.

The US has only recently started to normalise its relations with the Indonesian armed forces, whose atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999 prompted Washington to cut off military sales and halt all military training programmes with Jakarta.

Cooperation in joint military training efforts was only recently resumed.

During Cobra Gold 2006, Thailand, the US, Singapore, Japan and Indonesia will participate in a computer simulation exercise designed around the United Nations multi-national peace keeping scenario.

Cobra Gold originally started in 1981 as annual bilateral military exercises between Thailand and the US, at a time when Thailand was still deemed a frontline state against the spread of communism in the region.

In recent year the exercise has expanded its participants to include Singapore, Japan, and now Indonesia, and changed its focus on peacekeeping.

"For a quarter century, Cobra Gold has been the most visible symbol of US and Thai military cooperation," said Boyce at the exercise's opening ceremony in Nakhon Nayok, 90 kilometres northeast of Bangkok.

"Over recent years, Cobra Gold has evolved from being a strictly bilateral joint exercise to a multilateral event designed to enhance our ability to respond to peace enforcement and peacekeeping responsibilities under the United Nations," said the US ambassador. - (dpa)


Indonesian military to participate in exercise in Thailand

JAKARTA, May 4 (Xinhua) -- The Indonesian military (TNI) will for the first time take part in a joint military exercise with Thailand, the United States, Japan and Singapore in Konayo, Thailand, on May 15-26, 2006.

"This is the first time for us to join (the exercise) after our status as an observer," Antara news agency quoted TNI Commander Air Marshal Djoko Suyanto as saying here on Thursday.

Djoko said, it was based on the TNI's interest to participate in the joint exercise codenamed "Cobra Gold" in a bid to widen its horizons, improving its capability and professionalism.

For now, the TNI would only participate in the preparatory phase of the joint exercise. "We will not yet take part in the battle exercise," he said.

He said the 25 servicemen who will join the exercise originating from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Djoko said further that the total number of personnel who will take part in the joint exercise ranged between 9,000 and 10,000 from navy, air force and army including representatives of the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Australia, Belgium and France.

He said the TNI in the joint exercise would focus its attention on peace keeping operations, especially relating to the operation of humanitarian relief.

"Cobra Gold" is one of the joint exercises held in coordination between the U.S. Seventh Fleet with a number countries in the Asia Pacific region. Such a joint exercise with Thailand could also be participated in by other countries in the Asia Pacific region.


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