Indonesia calls for new Asian treaty

Foreign Minister says it would help to build trust and confidence in a fast-changing region where the potential for conflict is growing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 May, 2013, 4:40am


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Indonesia's foreign minister is calling for a new treaty spanning Asia to help build trust, warning of the potential for conflict in the fast-changing region.

On a visit to Washington, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said a treaty could help end "the all-too-familiar vicious cycle of tensions" in Asia and instead encourage confidence by bringing countries together in their goals.

Without directly mentioning China or the United States, Natalegawa said that the region did not want "the unchecked preponderance of a single state" or the uncertainty created by feuds among rival powers.

"Instead, peace and stability in the region ought to be brought about through the promotion of an outlook that speaks of common security, common prosperity and common stability," he told the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Peace and stability in the region ought to be brought about through the promotion of an outlook that speaks of common security, common prosperity and common stability

Natalegawa said an "Indo-Pacific-Wide Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation" would be along the model of the Asean bloc's Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, which bans the use of force in settling disputes in Southeast Asia. First signed in 1976, the treaty is credited with winding down Cold War-era divisions in the now rapidly growing Association of Southeast Asian Nations. China, India and the United States have since acceded to the treaty.

The Indonesian foreign minister defined the Indo-Pacific as stretching across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, saying that the region formed a key engine of world growth and was too often viewed in distinct sections.

Natalegawa called for the region to be upfront about its frictions, saying that nations should acknowledge territorial disputes and not "attempt to create new realities on the ground or at sea".

Several of China's neighbours, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan, have accused Beijing of aggressive encroachment to exert territorial claims. In turn, Japan has refused to describe islets claimed by China as disputed.

Natalegawa warned that the recent crisis over North Korea could mark "a significant leap" in tensions and hinted at fears that neighbouring nations would eventually seek their own nuclear arsenals.

North Korea's nuclear programme "may actually be altering the security equation in the region. Proliferation pressures, not unlike for example those in the Indian subcontinent, may ensue", he said.

Natalegawa later met US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that Indonesia "plays a critical role in the balance of interests in that region".

US President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, put a priority in his first term on building ties with the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, which has quickly embraced democracy since the 1990s.

While some experts see the warming ties as more rhetorical than substantive, the US has notably boosted relations with Indonesia's military after earlier concerns about the elite Kopassus unit's human rights record.

Joseph Yun, the acting US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said that the United States and Indonesia should become more active together on international areas of concern.