Thu, 10 Jul 2003

Government to protest U.S. over intrusion

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja and Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Batam/Jakarta

The government will send an aide-memoire to the U.S. government to express its "deep concern" over the recent intrusion into Indonesian airspace by five American F-18 hornet jet fighters.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will summon U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce on Thursday and officially present him with the aide- memoire.

"We are expressing concern over the passage of the U.S. jet fighters, which almost disrupted the country's civil aviation. And the issue still requires further clarification," the director for North and Central America affairs at the foreign ministry, Dino Pati Djalal, told The Jakarta Post in Batam, Riau, on Wednesday.

Dino said the Indonesian government still had to clarify whether the U.S. planes notified Indonesian authorities of their passage before making any further diplomatic moves.

He said his office had summoned U.S. diplomats over the issue on Monday, and sought clarification from them over the notification that Washington claimed to have submitted to authorities in Indonesia.

"During the meeting, we told the diplomats that we are concerned by the problem and asked them whether U.S. authorities gave notification before flying over our territory," Dino said.

Dino, however, said both sides had agreed in the meeting that the action of the U.S. jet fighters was not hostile and was not aimed at creating tension between the two countries.

Ties between Jakarta and Washington were once again put to the test when, last week, five U.S. jet fighters were detected maneuvering over Bawean island in East Java.

The Air Force dispatched F-16 Falcon jet fighters from an air base in Madiun, East Java, to intercept the American fighters.

Washington has claimed it submitted notification that the fighters, which took off from a U.S. frigate, would be engaged in maneuvers over the island. Indonesian government officials have yet to confirm this notification.

Dino said: "We have to carefully address the issue as the facts are not yet fully known .... "

He said Jakarta would first express its concern over the issue, while still considering whether to submit an official protest.