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Indonesia warns of ‘distrust’ over US troop deal

Barrack Obama

Indonesia echoed Chinese concerns about a US military build-up in northern Australia Thursday, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa warning it could create tension and mistrust.

The plan to post up to 2,500 Marines in the Northern Territory from mid-2012 was unveiled Wednesday during a lightning visit to Canberra by US President Barack Obama, who said it was a “commitment to the entire Asia Pacific region.”

But it drew criticism from China, widely seen as the target of the move, with the foreign ministry questioning whether it was appropriate or “in the interest of countries in this region.”

Natalegawa also expressed concern about the plan, which will see expanded access for US military aircraft as well as the troop boost in northern Australia, an area right on Indonesia’s doorstep.

“What I would hate to see is if such developments were to provoke a reaction and counter-reaction precisely to create that vicious circle of tensions and mistrust or distrust,” Natalegawa said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“That’s why it’s very important when a decision of this type is taken there is transparency of what the scenario being envisaged is and there is no misunderstanding as a result.”

Obama said the notion that the United States was afraid of or trying to edge out China was “mistaken” but stressed during his remarks on the Australian military boost that the Asian powerhouse would have to “play by the rules.”

“I’ve said repeatedly and I’ll say again today that we welcome a rising, peaceful China,” he said in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday.

“The main message that I have said not only publicly but privately to the Chinese is that with their rise comes increased responsibilities. It’s important for them to play by the rules of the road.

“There’s going to be times where they’re not and we will send a clear message to them that they need to be on track in terms of accepting the rules and responsibilities that come with being a world power.”

The Australian troop boost is seen as a clear statement by Washington that it intends to stand up for its interests in the region.

The US has viewed with concern China’s growing assertiveness in the region on territorial disputes, as have many of the Asian powerhouse’s neighbours.

Source: AFP

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