United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Availability with the Indonesian Minister of Defense

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 30, 2003

(Media Availability with Matori Abdul Djalil, Indonesian minister of defense, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore.)


Wolfowitz:  Indonesia went through a very violent transition where the old dictatorship collapsed and they’ve been in the midst of very difficult economic circumstances and Indonesia has been in the process of very important transition to a democratic government in what is as difficult circumstances as could be imagined.  The importance of this country of more than 200 million people with the largest Muslim population of any country in the world should be obvious and I think we all have a stake in Indonesia managing successfully a transition to a stable, prosperous democracy. 


I’m afraid that it has also been noticed by the terrorists that this country is a target, that the terrorists do not want to see Indonesia succeed.  They would like to drag Indonesia backwards along with the rest of the Muslim world and that attack in Bali last October was a very clear demonstration of their intent.  I do think that while they may have achieved a tactical success killing a lot of innocent people in Bali, success by their standards, I think it was also a strategic setback for them because it’s awakened the Indonesian people I think to the fact that terrorism aimed at them as well as the U.S. and the west and the response of the Indonesian authorities in the wake of the Bali bombing has been impressive, the investigation of the bombing has been impressive, and we value that co-operation with Indonesia on terrorism. 


But overall the most important thing I think in fact is helping Indonesia to succeed in building a stable democracy and in that respect I think reforming the military is an essential piece of that effort and I had a useful discussion with the minister about Indonesia’s efforts in that regard. 


Q:  What’s the U.S. view of the current military action in Aceh?


Matori:  We should do military action in Aceh, but it is….we decided it’s very unhappy, very unhappy feeling.  Because as you know, we do patiently, we do many things that we hope can address the Aceh case very peacefully.  As you know, we give to Aceh special autonomy.  Not only special autonomy but we give them too Sharia Islam.  And as you know, that to govern themselves, we do very patiently there.  Like we hope that we can sit down together, and we can address everything very peacefully.  But until we decide that military operation there, we know where that guns disturbance and they don’t release or they don’t throw the separatist spirit from Indonesia.  We hope that the government received that Aceh is a part of Indonesia, and agree that special autonomy is the best thing. 


We can discuss about everything in Aceh.  As you know, we do there not just military operations, but we do there what we call by humanitarian operation, and we do there empowering local government, and we do there about law enforcement.  It means that we do not just military operation, but we do there as comprehensive operation there.  By that policy, we hope that the victims from the operation can be minimized and we do there be careful and what we there by it done firmly.


Wolfowitz:  Let me just add, we certainly understand the Indonesian concern about preserving the integrity of their nation, at the same time we believe very strongly that the solution to the issues in Aceh ultimately has got to be a political one and we were very disappointed that the latest talks in Tokyo were not successful. 


I think it’s very important in whatever Indonesia does militarily to keep in mind that the ultimate goal has to be a political solution and I think in that regard, and I said this to the minister, I think it would be very helpful if Indonesia would make sure that the actions of its forces are transparent and I think the requests of some NGOs to be able to come into Aceh to monitor the situation are good requests and I think it can help to encourage the world that Indonesia is behaving, its troops are behaving professionally and carefully because I think that kind of restraint is the only thing that will keep open the door to ultimately political settlement.


Q:  Mr. Wolfowitz, what are you going to do about the dispersal of the IMET funds in what way would you consider the Senate’s amendment last week that urges the administration not to disperse those funds until a satisfactory co-operation with the Indonesian military and FBI occur?


Wolfowitz:  The issue of the Freeport killings is a very important issue.  We’ve made it clear at the highest level in Indonesia that we need satisfactory co-operation from Indonesia or it will affect the whole relationship.  I think it is important to understand though, that the issue of IMET at times is too often I think made the one point on which we use to indicate our dissatisfaction over issues and the fact is that over the years I believe exposure of Indonesian officers to U.S. has been a way to promote reform efforts in the military not to set them back, so we’re considering all of those as we think about how to proceed next to the Congress on IMET.


Q:  Referring to that LA Times report, are you thinking of moving troops to Singapore?


Wolfowitz:  There’s a certain general truth in that report which is, and there’s a lot of specifics that are not accurate.  The general truth is in fact taking a fundamental look at our military posture worldwide including in Asia.  There are a lot of opportunities to do things differently, to do things more efficiently, to base our forces in ways that will more flexibly respond to the very different nature of the threat we face in the 21st century from the kinds of things we worried much about over the previous 50 years.  But no decisions have been made about any of those changes yet. 


We are in the process of trying to get our own thinking clear so that we can begin process of consultation with the congress and with other countries in the region.  We have processes under way with both Korea and Japan to work at the long-term future of our defense relationships in that context we can look at these issues.  But there’ll be more specific decisions and a few of the things mentioned in that article I don’t think have any substance to them at all such as the example of moving our marines from Okinawa to Australia.  That’s simply not right.


One last one.   Yes --


            Q:  How long will the military action in Aceh be?


Matori:  We hope that there will be success in six months and, as you understand that our military chief there, works strategy and we hope that military action is not more than six months and maybe it will finish in just two or three months.  Because we understand and we are aware that too long marshal law I think is not good for our government.


Q:  What would a successful ending to the mission be?  What would successful results to the mission be?  How would you define the success of the Aceh operation?


Matori:  Well I think the success is, it means that it can be addressed very peacefully, at first.  But as you know that we do military operation but is not our goal.  Our goal just hope our national identity can be consolidate so that the success for us will be that we are the winner because we winning the hearts and minds of Aceh.  So that’s why we do not just military operation but we do there humanitarian operation too.

Additional Links

Stay Connected