Sat, 12 Mar 2005

Juwono leaves for U.S to seek resumption of military ties

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono and his delegation left Jakarta for the United States on Friday to persuade the U.S. government to resume full military relations with Indonesia.

Earlier on Thursday, Juwono said that he would convince the U.S. government and Congress that the Indonesian Military (TNI) had been professional and had upheld democracy and thus deserved support.

In the one week visit, Juwono and delegation is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Minister of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, several members of U.S. Congress and Senate as well as the media and general public.

"I will explain the development of democracy in Indonesia, civilian supremacy and the Indonesian Military's position in Indonesian politics," said Juwono.

The minister said that he would also explain to the general public in the United States the achievements gained in military reform in the country in recent years. Military reform has resulted in the withdrawal of military representatives in the House of Representatives and there has been a growing respect for human rights within the TNI.

The U.S. visit was held about a month after the U.S. Department of State announced that it had lifted restrictions on Indonesia's participation in a U.S. military training program.

The announcement was seen as a sign that the U.S. government would move forward to resume full military ties with Indonesia, which means that Indonesia would gain access to military training and the purchase of weapons from the U.S.

If this materializes, it would end over a 13-year embargo on the sale of U.S. weaponry to Indonesia.

The United States cut military links with Indonesia in 1992 following the massacre of civilian protesters in East Timor, a tiny province, which later separated from Indonesia in 1999.

Attempts to restore military links did not succeed, especially after the killing of two American teachers in Papua in 2002.

International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the international community asserted that Indonesian soldiers were behind the killing of the teachers, making hopes for the resumption of military ties fade.

But the war against terrorism waged fiercely by President George W. Bush's hawkish administration in recent years has provided the opening for resumption of military ties. Bush needed to join forces with Indonesia, which is seen as a key ally in Southeast Asia, in his war against terrorism and resuming military ties would be one of the means to win Indonesia's favor.

The resumption of military ties was further given a boost after the Indonesian and U.S. military worked hand in hand in helping tsunami victims in Aceh. The close cooperation led to the lifting of the restriction on Indonesian Military officers' participation in International Military Education and Training (IMET), which was seen as a precursor to the resumption of full military ties.





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