Indonesia aims for further military ties with U.S.

JAKARTA Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:13pm IST

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia and the United States said on Thursday they had signed a defence framework arrangement to pave the way for further cooperation in military training, defence procurement and maritime security.

However, a U.S. ban on military training since the 1990s for Indonesia's notorious special forces unit Kopassus remains in place, a U.S. embassy spokesman said.

Security cooperation is something both countries want to improve, and Indonesia's defence minister said in March he was optimistic that the ban on training for Kopassus could be lifted.

Ties between Washington and Jakarta cooled in the 1990s over rights abuses, often linked to Kopassus in East Timor, Aceh and Papua, but the relationship has warmed during the presidency of Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia.

"We have been talking for some time both internally and with the Indonesian government about how and under what conditions we might pursue re-engagement with Kopassus that is in accordance with our law, values and interests," said Tristram Perry at the U.S. embassy in Jakarta.

Washington has gradually lifted military aid and sales restrictions and Indonesia's defence minister said in March about 2,800 Indonesian military officials were being trained in the United States.

Despite the lifting of some U.S. restrictions, Jakarta has shopped elsewhere, turning to Russia for jet fighters and China for missiles. It is now talking to U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin about buying transport planes.

Indonesia is expected to ask for more economic and military aid during a planned visit by Obama, which has already been delayed twice in 2010 and is now targeted for late in the year.

Indonesia has been a frontline state in the U.S.-led fight against Islamist extremism, and has had considerable success in quashing militants after deadly bombings by radical organisation Jemaah Islamiah and splinter groups, which want to build a regional Islamic caliphate. (Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Alex Richardson)

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