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Indonesia says 'no problem' with US Marines plan

16 march 2012, 18:58
Indonesia said Thursday it had no problem with US plans to station Marines in northern Australia as Canberra flagged the possibility of four-nation military drills with China, AFP reports.

The plan to bring some 2,500 Marines to remote Darwin by 2016-17 initially raised some "questions" when it was unveiled by US President Barack Obama in Australia last November, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

But "those questions have been provided answers" and it was now recognised as a valuable opportunity to boost humanitarian and disaster response, Natelegawa said following bilateral defence and diplomacy talks in Canberra.

"I think there is a general wish on the part of both countries to ensure that our region, namely the Asia-Pacific, continues to remain benign and peaceful and stable and that we not revert to any conditions that would jeopardise that already very positive kind of outlook," he told reporters.

The move to station Marines in Australia has been seen by some as a clear statement by Washington that it intends to stand up for its interests in the region amid concern about China's growing assertiveness.

Natelegawa said that Indonesia believed peace and stability in the region "would be best served if there was to be a dynamic equilibrium where there is an absence of preponderant power".

"(And) by the promotion of ideas of common security, common prosperity, security within rather than security against."

Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said Jakarta did not "have a problem at all" with the plan and had discussed humanitarian and disaster relief drills with Australian counterparts Stephen Smith and Bob Carr Thursday.

"I don't think there would be a problem in respect of the government to government (relations)," Yusgiantoro said.

Smith added that they had also spoken, "in passing", about possible four-way military drills between Australia, the United States, Indonesia and countries "including and in particular China."

"We don't discount that down the track," Smith said of bringing China in.

Carr, sworn in as Australia's new foreign minister this week, denied they had discussed containing China, instead emphasising the success of regional diplomacy on sensitive issues such as the South China Sea.

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