Tue, 02 Aug 1994

Australia hails joint military exercises with RI

JAKARTA (JP): Australian Defense Minister Senator Robert Ray says the joint exercises conducted by Australian and Indonesian forces have contributed to the strengthening of overall bilateral relations between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters after meeting President Soeharto, Ray described that officers from both countries who are involved in these exercises will become "friends for life" that problems that may raise later could be resolved "between friends".

Ray, accompanied by his Indonesian counterpart Edi Sudradjat, paid courtesy calls on President Soeharto and Vice President Try Sutrisno in their respective offices yesterday. He arrived earlier, accompanied by Admiral Alan Beaumont, the chief of the Australian Armed Forces.

He was given a military welcome at the Ministry of Defense and Security which was also attended by Armed Forces Chief Gen. Feisal Tanjung, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Wismoyo Arismunandar, Navy Chief of Staff Admiral Tanto Koeswanto and Air Force Chief of Staff Marshall Rilo Pambudi.

Ray said that during his meeting with Edi, they agreed to expand the defense bilateral cooperation between the two countries to include providing military training and education for Indonesian officers.

Indonesia has began sending its military officers to Australia for education and training after Washington stopped providing aid for such programs in the United States for ABRI officers.

Asked whether Australia was planning to sell military equipment to Indonesia, he said it would be better for the two countries to develop projects to produce defense equipment.

In his meeting with Ray, Try said that Indonesia's budget for defense was still low because the government was giving priority to economic development, according to the Antara news agency.

"Indonesia's defense budget is still only 1.6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product, far below Australia's," Sumadi, an aide to the minister/state secretary, quoted the Vice President as saying.

Try said that the main priorities in national development are poverty eradication, the creation of more job opportunities and improvement of the quality of human resources. (rms)