Securing Regional Waters: Indonesia

Jun. 06, 2007


Sunday 3 June 2007


Professor Juwono Sudarsono, Minister of Defence, Indonesia

Securing Regional Waters: Indonesia

Professor Juwono Sudarsono

Minister for Defence, Indonesia

I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of the delegation to the staff of IISS Asia, the Government of Singapore for this opportunity to present our views at this very important occasion. I will speak in broad general strategic terms about the role of maritime security in the region covering both Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and the links with the Persian Gulf. I think it is important to note that as was observed by many speakers yesterday, the Straits of Malacca is an important trading and naval passage area in the region.

It covers 30% of the 95% of sea borne trade. People do not realise that in this globalised world with tremendous advances in air transportation, 95% of trade is still conducted through the sea. The straits of Malacca account for about 40% of that 95% of sea born trade. It is very important for us, very important for the countries and region and very important for the global economy, which I will explain in a moment.

The United States is a major regional military powered region. It has been so for the past 70 years. The difference now is that we see the rise of Japan and China, two economies, one 4.1 trillion dollars Japan, and the other two trillion dollars, China. Korea is more than 1 trillion dollars, India is approaching 1.2 trillion dollars GDP. The whole of Asian, if I may speak for the ten member states of Asian accounts, were less than 600 billion dollars, so that is very important economic dimension to the links within regional security and maritime security linking Northeast Asia and South-East Asia.

This is where we and South-East Asia, Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia , safeguarding the Straits of Malacca, not only for the economies of South-East Asia, but also of its links with Northeast Asia. The power houses of Japan and China and Republic of Korea cannot be discounted in the analysis of maritime security.

The importance of Japan and China and south Korea to the United States is simply because these three economic power houses underwrite United States trade and financial deficits. It bears into the calculation about base funding of US troop and equipment presence in these three countries: Japan, South Korea and parts of South-East Asia.

The United States remains the security provider in terms of micro-strategic power because the specific command, commands the largest number of ships, planes and missiles that provide the secure environment in which trade within Northeast Asia and trade between Northeast Asia and South-East Asia is secure. With the rise of Japan and China as economic power houses, there is a tremendous need to recognise that these two major countries will also want to co-determine the terms and conditions of Western Pacific security, including maritime security by enhancing the naval capabilities within Northeast Asia and across to South-East Asia because of the sea lines of communication and the links with energy security to the gulf area.

So historically as well as contemporarily the role of maritime security involving these countries will be important for us in the region. We work together, Indonesia and Singapore and Malaysia, to provide what we call sovereign space in guaranteeing safe passage in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore simply because we have an important state for the committees of the region, also with the environment, including the safety of our fishermen in these areas.

I would like to broaden the notion of securing the waterways, not in terms of naval deployments, naval presence and naval power, but also in terms of the broader concern for the fishermen of the areas concerned in south-east Asia as well as the environment impact that it may have on the level of naval traffic that we have in the whole area of the region.

I would like to finish up by saying very simply that we must look at the nexus of politics, economics and security in the wider sense because the level of American willpower depends on how it overcomes the trade and physical deficit it sustains. So long as China, Japan and South Korea underwrites the deficit, the United States will bargain with each of these countries over the terms and conditions of its military presence in Northeast Asia.

That will affect also the viability of security in the wider sense and the salients affecting the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. Because Asia is also linked to the economies of both Japan and China, and also in a lesser sense to South Korea, there is tremendous interest for us in South-East Asia to link up and provide some degree of comfort level, mill to mill relationship within the armed forces of the South-East Asian countries and Northeast Asia. I think that would be the gist of my remarks.

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