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Statement by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates At Media Roundtable With Media

Jakarta, July 22, 2010

This is my second visit to Indonesia as Secretary of Defense, and I’m pleased to be here again to experience first-hand how our bilateral relationship has matured.

This is a very important time in our relationship, as we’re broadening, deepening and elevating the ties under the auspices of the Defense Framework Agreement that was signed in June and the overall U.S.-Indonesia comprehensive partnership.

I had very good discussions today with President Yudhoyono and Defense Minister Purnomo.  We discussed a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues.  Our nations share a number of interests, and we spent some time talking about those and how we can work together to address our common security challenges.

Regionally, for example, we talked about the upcoming ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting plus in Hanoi in October and our views of the South China Sea.  Bilaterally, we discussed progress in three key areas:  maritime security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations.

These are areas where the government in Indonesia has clearly defined a role for the Indonesian armed forces, and we are already cooperating closely in these areas.

We also discussed where we could increase and improve this cooperation so that Indonesia can expand its leadership in the region and globally.  For example, the government of Indonesia has vast humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief experience, and the United States is committed to assisting with improving the Indonesian armed forces’ mobility and airlift capabilities in this area.  Indeed, Ambassador Hume recently attended the sendoff ceremony for the first Indonesian C-130 that is headed to the United States for a complete overhaul in Oklahoma City.

Indonesia also has an important role to play in maritime security, given that it sits astride key sea lines of communication and other -- and nearby to other key waterways.

We discussed how we could support each other in terms of providing for better security and surveillance of Indonesia’s waters and exclusive economic zone.

I would also note that Indonesia is one of the largest contributors to the United Nations peacekeeping operations and has a significant deployment in Lebanon right now.

We also remain committed to working together in the area of defense reform and professionalization of the TNI.  As you all know, the Indonesian armed forces have undertaken important military reforms since the fall of Suharto.

Most recently, the Ministry of Defense has publicly pledged to protect human rights and advance human-rights accountability and committed to suspend active-duty military officials credibly -- to suspend from active duty military officials credibly accused of human-rights abuses, remove from military service any member convicted of such abuses, and cooperate with the prosecution of members of the military who have violated human rights.

The president and I discussed these commitments again today.  I told the president that as a result of these significant steps and other reforms that the TNI has undertaken, the United States will begin a measured and gradual program of security cooperation activities with the Indonesian army special forces, KOPASSUS, within the limits of U.S. law.

The process will begin with staff-level discussions to begin common understanding of how each of us operates and trains.  Subsequently, cooperation could include activities such as participation in select conferences and events involving non-lethal subjects such as rule of law, human rights, and the military decision-making process.

I noted to the president and defense minister that these initial steps do not signal any lessening of the importance we place on human rights and accountability.  And that our ability to expand upon these initial steps will be based on continued implementation of reforms within the TNI.

I believe that taking these initial steps is important for a number of reasons, including that KOPASSUS members are already involved in U.N. peacekeeping operations and would also likely have a role in any major crisis response or hostage-taking incident.

What has struck me during this visit is that this is no longer a relationship that is focused on how the United States can assist Indonesia.  It is a relationship that is built on how our two countries can assist the region and the world.

As Indonesia takes on even greater roles in providing leadership in the region and beyond, this becomes an even more important relationship for the United States.  And our bilateral relationship becomes even more important to effectively addressing broader regional and global issues.