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Indonesia guarded on straits patrol JAKARTA - Indonesia has given qualified support to a plan for Australian navy patrol aircraft to help guard the strategic Malacca Straits against terrorist attacks and piracy. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohammad Najib discussed the plan with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, asking if Canberra would consider sending long-range RAAF P-3C Orion patrol aircraft to help oversee the 1000kilometre waterway.

Mr Downer, reflecting diplomatic sensitivities in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur about foreign intervention, said Australian aircraft would fly only with observers from one of the three neighbouring countries aboard. "They believe the littoral states should have primary responsibility, and certainly should have full responsibility for direct intervention, that is, on-the-water intervention," he said.

"But ... they would be happy for countries like Australia to make a contribution, over and above that, to the surveillance task." Each year more than 50,000 ships pass through the straits - bordered by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - carrying half the world's oil and a third of global commerce, including 80 per cent Japan's oil from the Middle East.

After scores of piracy attacks launched mostly from Sumatra in recent years, Indonesia bowed to international pressure and agreed in July to increase sea and air patrols. But many countries are concerned terrorists could take advantage of stretched security in the area to seize a passing oil tanker and launch a catastrophic attack on a trade centre such as Singapore.

The narrowest point of the lane - the Phillips Channel - closes to only 2.4 kilometres wide, creating a natural bottleneck. Indonesia's chief foreign affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa said Jakarta would not oppose Australian air force patrols, but would first want more information on the "shape and form".

Indonesia would prefer "training assistance or capacity building" to direct foreign involvement in patrols, MrNatalegawa said. The US Navy has promised to donate transport ships and inflatable boats to Indonesia's ageing navy to help Jakarta patrol its side of the straits.

Mr Downer said Australia could send Orions down the waterway, basing them out of Malaysia's Butterworth air base in the north-west - where they already fly Indian Ocean exercises - or Singapore. Both countries are members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements grouping Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

"As long as there were Malaysians on board the plane, or Singaporeans, or both," Mr Downer said. Air patrols over the Malacca Straits build on a recent proposal by Defence Minister Robert Hill to place Indonesian observers on Australia naval or fisheries patrol boats to help combat poaching in Australian waters.


Related blog entries (category 'General') Related blog entries (category 'General'):
29 July 2004 · Pirates open fire on gas tanker in Indonesia
21 July 2004 · Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore launch maritime security patrols
18 June 2004 · Govt orders pirates, sea terrorists shot on sight


Posted in General @ 12 December 2005 08:36 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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