RI to strengthen defense cooperation with USA : Minister

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and the US will strengthen and expand their defense and military cooperation in anticipation of regional and global strategic developments, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said.

The matter will be the main topic of talks with US Defense Secretary Leon Edward Panetta when he visits Indonesia in mid-October, Puronomo said,

Speaking to the press after receiving a "Medal for Strengthening Combat Fraternity" from the Russian government here on Tuesday, Purnomo said defense and military cooperation with the US so far had gone well and would continue to be developed and increased.

The cooperative relations with the US stagnated at the height of Indonesia`s engagement in East Timor which ended with the latter`s separation through a referendum in September 1999.

Later, some quarters in the US especially the Congress asked the US government not to continue military-to-military cooperation with Indonesia.

The call was put in the Leahy Amendment which was made with sponsorship from the chairman of the US Congress` Foreign Relations Committee, Patrick Leahy.

In the midst of the Congress determination the US government however tried to persuade the Congress to ease its stance. Negotiations were made with Indonesia to find the best way out.

After various efforts were made the US government finally re-opened its military cooperation with Indonesia including providing training for the country`s army special force Kopassus in stages.

Strategic and dynamic developments in the region and at international levels including terrorism and situation in the South China Sea have made the US to strengthen its bilateral and multilateral relations with a number of countries including those in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"We will formulate the cooperation between the two countries that has so far gone well to make it even better," Purnomo said.(*)