US SEALs in Indonesia for military exercise

Updated On: May 12, 2005

Jakarta - US Navy SEALs are taking part in anti-terrorism drills alongside Indonesian soldiers in a palm-fringed string of resort islands near Jakarta.

    The programme is part of a broader effort by the United States to boost regional security.
    "This event is an exercise, not a joint operation at sea between the Indonesian military and the US Pacific Command," said Lt-Col  Edi Fernandi, a spokesman for the Indonesian Navy's western fleet.
    The exercises began with classroom sessions on May 2 and ended on May 13.
    They were being held in the Kepulauan Seribu archipelago just north of Jakarta and home to many tourist resorts.
    On May 7, "we started exercises on Laki Island involving 34 soldiers from the Indonesian Navy, seven from the US Navy SEALs, five from the Indonesian Army and five from the Indonesian Air Force," Lt-Col Fernandi said. 
    "The exercises include anti-piracy and searching a ship in dealing with sea terrorism," he added.
    A US embassy spokesman, Mr Max Kwak, said the drills were part of the Subject Matter Expert Exchange programme, which was reinstated last year. The programme was suspended in the wake of the violence by Indonesia-backed militias following East Timor's 1999 vote for independence. 
    Military ties between Indonesia and the United States have begun to strengthen in recent months. The Bush administration regards Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as a democratic reformer worth cultivating and is keen to enlist his government's support in Washington's global war against terror.
    However, a senior US official said full relations would not be restored until Jakarta accounted for past violence in East Timor and brought to justice those behind the 2002 murder of two American school teachers in remote Papua. 

* US Navy SEALs in Indonesia anti-terrorism drill (The Jakarta Post, May 10)