CANBERRA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday proposed joint military disaster exercises with Australia and the United States in a sign of easing concerns in Jakarta over American troop deployments to northern Australia.
Under U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. will rotate 2,500 Marines through a base near the northern Australian city of Darwin in a decision which Indonesia initially said created tension and mistrust.
During a two-day visit to Darwin, Yudhoyono made no mention of the U.S. deployment, but suggested countries in the region, including China, could join the United States in planning for disaster relief operations.
“We hope that the United States, China, and also other countries will also join us in facing possible natural disasters,” Yudhoyono said through a translator after bilateral talks with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“It can engage the militaries of each of the countries in our region,” he added.
Australia has promoted the U.S. Marines’ presence and Darwin’s proximity to Indonesia, as being useful for emergency relief for future disasters or emergencies, such as the 2002 Bali bombings or the deadly 2004 tsunami.
Beijing, however, is wary of Washington’s intentions in the Asia-Pacific, with more hawkish voices in the PLA saying that the United States is bent on encircling China and frustrating its rise.
Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by Jeremy Laurence