|Subject: Rumsfeld to Indonesia
South China Morning Post
June 5, 2006 Monday
Rumsfeld launches charm offensive; Flurry of meetings aimed at wooing new allies and cementing old ties in regional talks
Chief Asia Correspondent Greg Torode in Singapore
As a rising China dominates the regional security concerns of US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, he is seeking to ensure the Pentagon has plenty of other friends in the region.
Mr Rumsfeld's weekend mission to Singapore for the so-called Shangri-La Dialogue marked the start of a charm offensive to bolster traditional alliances and deepen new ties.
He flew to Hanoi last night to become only the second US defence chief to visit Vietnam since the fall of US-backed South Vietnam to communist forces in 1975.
He then heads to Indonesia - his first visit since the lifting last November of a six-year arms embargo that followed military inspired violence in East Timor.
When asked about human rights reforms within Indonesia's internally feared military, Mr Rumsfeld said he did not believe the ban should have ever been imposed. "I am not one of those people who believe that every country should be like the United States," he said.
Indonesia has been purchasing Chinese, South Korean and Polish weapons and material, but is soon expected to start buying seaborne missiles from the US.
His Indonesian counterpart Juwono Sudarsono repaid the warmth yesterday, telling surprised delegates that the US had a "unique" role in establishing trust across the region and must be included in any future security movement.
Mr Rumsfeld was among the most active participants in the weekend meeting, an informal gathering of regional security officials now celebrating its fifth year.
The US sent one of the biggest delegations that included senior CIA and intelligence officials.
As well as holding formal closed-door bilateral meetings with long-term US military allies Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia, Mr Rumsfeld also met his Mongolian counterpart, Mishig Sonompil. The pair discussed US training assistance and future Mongolian involvement in international peacekeeping missions.
China sent a low-level delegation headed by a Foreign Ministry official and did not formally meet the US team.
With many delegates pondering how Washington will align itself in a future region that home to both a powerful China and a powerful Japan, Mr Rumsfeld insisted the US wanted to remain fully engaged with deepening military relationships, including China.
"Now we see an expanding network of security co-operation in this region ? with the US as partner," he said. "We see this as a welcome shift."
Given the weight of history and strategic considerations, Mr Rumsfeld's visit to Vietnam is being closely watched, Asian diplomatic sources said.
"In their own ways, both the US and Vietnam are deeply suspicious of China's military development, yet they are both courting Beijing," one veteran diplomat said.
"It is a driving remarkable strategic relationship, despite all the baggage."
Mr Rumsfeld skirted strategic questions, but described an "evolving relationship with an important country". The US normalised diplomatic relations in 1995 shortly after lifting a two-decade economic embargo against the country, one of the world's poorest.
After decades of mutual mistrust, US warships have visited Vietnamese ports and the Pentagon is seeking to expand military ties further.
Agence France Presse
Rumsfeld defends military ties with Indonesia
Indonesia, U.S. to discuss ways to improve military ties
JAKARTA (AP): Indonesia and the United States will discuss ways to improve military ties during a visit by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Indonesia's foreign minister said Friday.
Rumsfeld is to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indonesia's defense and foreign ministers during his two-day visit, which begins Tuesday.
Rumsfeld will "discuss all things relating to the improvement of military-to-military relations," Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said.
Topics will include military equipment and maritime security, especially in the narrow Malacca Strait, he said.
Each year, more than 50,000 ships, carrying half the world's oil and a third of its commerce, pass through the Malacca Strait, bordered by Malaysia and Singapore on one side and the Indonesian island of Sumatra on the other. U.S. officials have expressed concern about possible terrorist attacks.
Washington cut all military ties with Indonesia, the world's largest predominantly Muslim nation, in 1999 after its army and militia proxies devastated East Timor during its break from Jakarta. It lifted the ban in November, citing Indonesia's cooperation in fighting terrorism.
On Thursday, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said he will urge Rumsfeld not to pressure other countries to follow Washington's approach in fighting terrorism.
"We will tell the United States that if it demands that the handling of terrorism be based on its ways, it will only hurt the United States itself ... and cause anger and a loss of sympathy among the world's communities," JUwono told reporters.
Juwono said it would be better to let each country decide how to handle terrorism rather than having it be based on the will of the United States or other parties. He didn't elaborate.
Anti-American sentiment in Indonesia rose sharply after the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and many see the U.S. war on terrorism as being directed against Muslims.
Juwono also said he would talk to Rumsfeld about acquiring spare parts for Indonesia's U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, many of which had to be grounded after the break in military ties because of a ban on arms sales.
Human rights groups criticized the resumption of military ties, saying human rights abuses continued in the Indonesian army.
-------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service