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Indonesia strengthening military capacity
Helen Brown speaks with Indonesian Defence Minister Dr Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who recently held talks in Australian with his counterpart Stephen Smith.

When US President Obama visited Australia two years ago, he detailed his country's new pivot towards Asia.

Beijing, whose military capability is growing by the years, thinks China is the target of Washington's policy shift.

But it's not just China that's been building military capacity - India and Indonesia are also becoming significant regional powers.

Indonesia's minister of defence has recently held talks in Australia with his counterpart Stephen Smith.

Purnomo Yusgiantoro spoke to Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown in Jakarta.
HELEN BROWN, REPORTER: Minister of defence, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, welcome to the program.


HELEN BROWN: Now you've just spent two days in Perth meeting with Australia's Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, and you came away from that saying that the relationship is progressing well. Why is that?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Well really it's stronger the relation in the defence to defence between Indonesia and Australia, you know. This meeting was really good because, you know, Minister Smith brought me to the Western fleet camp, and then we also met special forces in the country. And he then he really openly showed to me Australia is really willing to work with us, and we are pleased with it.

HELEN BROWN: How can the relationship be stronger? Does it mean joint submarine patrols? Does it mean more exercises between your military forces? What are you looking at?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I think, you know, with that then that will indicate how then we can work together. we can jointly do the patrol together. But not only in defence to defence; in the arena of asylum seekers too, I see some enhancing cooperation between Australia and Indonesia.

HELEN BROWN: So Minister, if I can just pick up on the asylum seeker issue that you raised, you have said now and before that there is increased cooperation between the two countries.


HELEN BROWN: But in Australia a coroner has delivered some findings on deaths at sea of asylum seekers, and in that it was mentioned there needed to be more cooperation between Indonesia and Australia to prevent people drowning. Does the process need to be speeded up?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Well, one thing that we have been doing now, as I mentioned to you, is between the search and rescue between the two countries because when we have distress from asylum seekers then I think we will work together.

And, you know, from January to July this year within six, seven months, you know, we have been worked together for 53 times.

HELEN BROWN: So with that increased time of working together, do you think that the two countries have got to boats quicker, that they're preventing deaths at sea or what is the outcome of that?

PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: First I would like to stress to you that Indonesia's problem is not only the asylum seekers in the high seas, in the Indian Ocean, you know. I share also with Australian journalists before that in our country, you know, with 17,000 islands not all of them, you know, can have the beautiful boat that can transport from the island to island. Some of them are using like what are asylum seekers doing, you know, they're using their traditional boat to cross from island to island. And some of them having a problem because of wave, because of, you know, many problems in the seas and they need the search and rescue.

So our navy actually is really busy and also busy with search and rescue to rescue our own people, Indonesian people. So we understand that the need of the cooperation between Australia and Indonesia for the asylum seekers.

HELEN BROWN: Has Australia asked for Indonesia to conduct more patrols on its southern waters?

DR PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Actually between navy and Australian Navy also do work together, you know, in some area, you know. They are doing it in the eastern part of Indonesia, you know.

Now we have looking for the time for our chief of navy to talk with your chief of navy. I heard that really they are adjusting the time to meet and to talk to see what it really is they can work together.

But one thing that I check a couple of days ago after I returned back from Australia, you know, in a certain part of Java islands, you know, the wave is big, it's Indian Ocean, open sea, what we need is really the big ship, like frigate type class in your country. If we do that we have to move the frigate type warship class move to the southern part of Java. So really we are talking about asset. We are talking about the limitation of the asset that we have in the ocean.

HELEN BROWN: Minister, let's go on to another subject from the asylum seeker issue. Indonesia, of course, is in a strategic position in the region, and one of the things that it has been keeping an eye on and keeping dialogue going about is the South China Sea dispute.

The Chinese ambassador to Indonesia said the other day that he supports peaceful dialogue to resolve this and also talk about a code of conduct. Now, we have heard those words before though, do you think there is any real progress being made on this vexing issue?

DR PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Yes, indeed. The good news is now that the working level is not only at the minister level but also in the SOM, in the senior official meeting they're going to meet, sit down and talk. And that's really progressing according to myself because with that, you know, then you can start using the bottom up process. With the bottom up process, you know, eventually you come to the minister level and hopefully after that, you know, they're going to sit down and talk between head of states. So COC (Code of Conduct), I see optimism that we can achieve that quicker than what we have before with the DOC (Declaration of Conduct), you know, back in the year 2002.

HELEN BROWN: Minister, thank you very much for your time.
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