Jakarta - Amid concerns that the United States is looking for an excuse to send its own troops to patrol the pirate-infested Malacca Strait, a top US navy commander has assured the three littoral states that Washington has no intention of undermining their sovereignty in the area.
Admiral William Fallon, the newly-appointed Chief of the United States Pacific Command, said Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are capable of protecting the waterway without Washington’s help.
“I believe the nations of the region can do a very adequate job in taking care of this without our help. I would encourage them to continue to do so,” Adm Fallon told reporters in Jakarta on May 6 after meeting Indonesian Armed Forces Chief, General Endriartono Sutarto.
Last year, Indonesia and Malaysia protested when his predecessor, Admiral Thomas Fargo, suggested putting US special operation forces on high-speed vessels to safeguard the Malacca Strait from potential terrorists attacks and to prevent the movement of cargo containing weapons of mass destruction.
For his part, Gen Sutarto reiterated his government’s position that only the littoral states would deploy troops to protect the sealane.
Last year, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore launched joint patrols to curb piracy and deter maritime terrorism in the 900-km waterway in response to concerns of possible US intervention.
In Kuala Lumpur, visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick was also quoted as saying that Washington was keen to help tackle sea piracy without affecting the sovereignty of the littoral states.
Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who had talks with Mr Zoellick, said on May 9: “It wants to help out without affecting the sovereignty of the states and the US recognises that they do not want to undermine the principles of sovereignty in this area. In what way and what areas they want to help is for the USto consider.”
* US impressed with M’sia’s fight against terror (Bernama, May 9)
* US: Straits are littoral nations' responsibility (New Straits Times, May 7)
* US supports security in Malacca Strait (Antara, May 6)