Rice: U.S., Indonesia Must Continue Work on 'True Partnership'
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2006 The partnership between the United States and Indonesia has grown much in the past three decades, America's senior diplomat said yesterday, but the two countries must continue improving their military ties to meet new threats.
Those threats include criminals who exploit the region's waterways, global terrorism, and epidemics such as avian flu.
"The United States and the democracies of Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, are building a true partnership defined not just by the immediate threats we oppose, but by the enduring ideals we seek to promote," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Speaking on the second day of her visit to the nation of 17,000 islands, Rice praised the partnership's progress so far, citing changes in trans-Pacific relations since the Vietnam War era.
The United States and Indonesia have resumed military ties, she said, but progress toward greater accountability and complete military reform must continue in the region because "threats to our common security have not disappeared." The United States and other countries imposed economic sanctions and cut military-to-military relations after Indonesian forces backed anti-independence militias in East Timor, which was officially recognized as an independent nation in 2002.
Last month in Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted that the situation has improved with a moderate Muslim government in place in Indonesia, and he stressed the value of the positive influence the country's military can have in the country's diverse and dispersed population. "The military is the institution that reaches across that whole country," Rumsfeld said. "Their interaction with our military has always been a very positive thing. They come to this country. They understand civilian control. And they understand the importance of respect for human rights."
Rice echoed that thought in Indonesia yesterday. "The greatest challenges now emerge more from within states than between them, and they cannot be met by any one nation alone," Rice said.
The United States is working with Indonesia and others to close the area's waterways to criminals who smuggle drugs, proliferate weapons, and act as pirates and human traffickers, she said. "We also stand ready to help Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to secure the Straits of Malacca, through which one-quarter of the world's oil and trade pass every year."
Indonesia is bringing terrorists to justice, while the United States is working alongside countries like Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines to actively confront terrorists, she said.
Rice said the two countries are working together to meet the threat of avian influenza. The United States is contributing $11.5 million this year to fight avian flu in Indonesia, and the two nations are joining with Singapore to create an early warning program to combat the disease.
The secretary also discussed the economic and political ramifications of the two countries' partnership, applauding Indonesia's recent economic growth and tying that to its embrace of democratic ideals.
"In the 21st century, we must use our democratic partnerships to help people everywhere who long for a more hopeful future," she said. "The partnership between the United States and Indonesia will greatly contribute to that work."