By Kanupriya Kapoor and Rebekah Kebede
JAKARTA/PERTH Nov 1 Indonesia summoned
Australia's ambassador on Friday to explain media reports his
embassy in Jakarta was used to snoop on Southeast Asia's biggest
country as part of a U.S.-led global spying network.
Indonesia called in the chief U.S. diplomat in Jakarta this
week over the spying allegations, while China on Thursday
demanded an explanation from the United States after the Sydney
Morning Herald newspaper reported Australian embassies across
Asia were part of the U.S. espionage operation.
News of Australia's role in a U.S.-led surveillance network
could damage relations with Indonesia, Australia's nearest Asian
neighbour and an important strategic ally.
"Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has demanded
an explanation from the Australian ambassador in Jakarta about
the existence and use of surveillance facilities in the
Australian embassy here," Indonesia's Foreign Ministry said in a
"The reported activities absolutely do not reflect the
spirit of a close and friendly relationship between the two
neighbours and are considered unacceptable by the government of
Australia confirmed its ambassador to Indonesia had been
called in to "discuss Indonesia's concerns about media
allegations of intelligence activity by Australia", saying the
ambassador "took careful note of the issues raised".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying again
expressed concern about the reports, saying Beijing was asking
Canberra for "clarification".
The Sydney Morning Herald said its reports were based on
U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian
Snowden leaks to other media have detailed vast intelligence
collection by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on allies,
including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting protests
and a U.S. review of intelligence gathering.
"DIVISION OF LABOUR"
The Herald said Australia's top secret Defence Signals
Directorate (DSD), which is at the forefront of cyber security
intelligence, operates clandestine surveillance facilities at
embassies without the knowledge of most Australian diplomats.
"DSD is the most important of Australian intelligence
agencies. It is involved in high-level technical cooperation
with its American counterpart, the National Security Agency,"
said Richard Tanter, senior research associate at the Nautilus
Institute of Security and Sustainability.
"The U.S. would find it very useful to have its own
intercept from its own embassies in those countries, it will
find it very useful to be supplemented by what Australia is
doing ... a kind of division of labour from country to country."
Tanter said Australia had been monitoring Indonesia for a
long-time, seeking terrorism and human rights information.
"But the problem is when it goes beyond that. Beyond that,
there will a question of whether such electronic intercepts
really are appropriate activity for a country which we have a
strong and close relationship," he said.
Natalegawa, in Australia for a meeting with his counterpart
Julie Bishop and other foreign ministers from the region, said
Australian spying could "potentially damage the kind of trust
and confidence that have been nurtured and developed over many
"I think we have been able to communicate to Foreign
Minister Bishop about our concern," Natalegawa told reporters in
the Australian city of Perth.
Bishop said: "Foreign Minister Natalegawa raised his
concerns, I took them on board, I take them seriously, but the
Australian government does not and will not comment on
Relations were already shaky after Australia's new
conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, in September proposed
turning back boats of asylum-seekers coming through Indonesia.
Abbott made his first official trip overseas to Jakarta last
month where he sought to play down tension over the
asylum-seekers issue and called instead on both countries to
focus on boosting trade.