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Joint Press Conference at Idonesian President Soeharto's Residence

Presenters: Defense Secretary William Cohen and Indonesian Minister of Defense Edi Sudrajat
January 14, 1998

Secretary Cohen: I have just completed a very constructive meeting with President Soeharto. We reaffirmed our shared commitment to peace and stability in South East Asia and to our strong bilateral relations. Our common security interests include peaceful resolution of disputes, open sea lanes, and engagement with China. Indonesia's participation in the United Nations' peace-keeping missions has made it a force for peace in the world. In addition, Indonesia plays a key role in maintaining regional stability. It is a leader in ASEAN and is a fundamental force for peace and prosperity.

Over the past 30 years, Indonesia's economic growth and improvement in living standards has been an inspiration to the rest of the world. I reiterated President Clinton's commitment to helping Indonesia gain its economic stability. And the first step must be to work quickly and constructively with the IMF to rebuild confidence in Indonesia's economic promise and performance. And I stress the U.S. determination to work with the countries of South East Asia in good times and bad to protect the peace. Stability and security are the foundations for the region's prosperity.

Indonesia and the United States don't always agree on issues. We have had our differences on human rights, but we have learned to work together on a range of issues for regional security. So we seek an expanded focus on the strategic environment in Asia. As the region continues to change, it is important for us to engage in a continuing dialogue on problems and solutions, and my meeting with President Soeharto was an important part of that dialogue.

We would be happy to entertain your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, might I ask, did President Soeharto assure you that he and Indonesia are committed to making economic reforms which would guarantee the help from the IMF?

A: Cohen: The President indicated that he is committed to rebuilding confidence in the economic situation here in Indonesia. He has been meeting with a variety of officials. He will continue to consult with IMF officials as well. But he is determined to rebuild the confidence that is necessary for stability throughout the region. And, of course, he was very quick to point out, as he should, that the economic situation in Indonesia would have an impact upon other countries in this region. And any instability that would continue here would obviously have impacts on other countries as well. But he is determined to deal with the issues constructively and to move very quickly on various reforms once they have been committed to.

Q: Did you discuss arms sales or closer military ties between our countries?

A: Cohen: We did not have any discussion of arms sales. We have had discussions about how we can build upon the good relationship that we have with Indonesia. Indonesia plays a crucial role in the ASEAN Regional Forum. We intend to have very strong, and do have very strong, relationships on a bilateral basis with many countries in the region, and we want to build upon them. The Minister of Defense and I talked about ways in which we can build upon that in the future, and we will seek other ways to make it even a stronger bond.

Q: ...... East Timor?

A: (Cohen) We did not have a discussion about East Timor.

Q: Mr. Secretary, are you now reassured that President Soeharto is on the right track regarding IMF and/or do you have some doubts that Indonesia can turn the corner on the economic side?

A: (Cohen) Well, again, I am not here as any sort of financial expert. I am here to talk about security issues and ways in which we can expand upon our security relationship. After talking with the President, I am convinced that he is determined to put his country on a sound footing and to have a recovery of confidence in the integrity of the country's economic system. He did express that determination. And, I believe, based upon the meetings that he has had and will have with others in the next few days, that he is committed to that process.

Q: Mr. Secretary, did President Soeharto give you any indication whether he would be running for President again?

A: (Cohen) I did not inquire about his political aspirations, as such. But he gave every indication he is very strong. He is in great health, contrary to any reports that have been circulating in recent days. But he was very vigorous, very strong in his recitation of the history of this country, the economic progress that has been made, the economic problems that are currently being encountered. and his determination to overcome them. We did not have any discussions about his political future, as such, and that was not something on my agenda.

Q: Mr. Minister, might we briefly ask: Do you see closer military ties with the United States, and although U.S. arms sales were canceled last year, is there a chance that you will again buy U.S. arms?

A: (Minister Edi Sudrajat) Allow me to answer your question in Indonesian (translation) We do need military equipment, but at this moment we give priority to how we can restore our economy. Whatever the equipment needs of the armed forces, they have to be put aside until the time comes when we do have the ability and potential, and we will then equip our armed forces.

Q: With U.S. weapons?

A: (Minister Sudrajat) We buy from everywhere--what we need, what we judge as good quality, but there are not links or commitments whatsoever.

Q: Does the U.S. approve of the close ties between businesses and the military here?

A: (Cohen) I don't think that I am in a position to comment about the ties between business and the military in Indonesia.

Thank you very much.