Strategic Alliances

Commander of US Pacific Command discusses Asia-Pacific security and US Indonesia ties

By Tellisa Ramadhani
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

AmCham Indonesia and the United States Indonesia Society (USINDO) co-hosted an open forum on August 8 with Admiral Harry B Harris, Jr, the Commander of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), who was visiting Indonesia for the first time. Read his full speech here.

The participants came from government, business and media with a significant showing by active and retired military officers including Lieutenant General (Ret) Agus Widjojo, governor of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas); Major General Yoedhi Swastanto, Director General of Strategic Defense – Ministry of Defense; Air Marshal Bagus Puruhito, deputy governor of Lemhannas; Brigadier General Abdul Rakhman Baso, Commander of the Police’s Mobile Brigade Corps (Brimob); and Admiral (Ret) Dr Marsetio, former Indonesian Navy Chief.

“It was a bit unusual for AmCham to co-host a military officer, but this gave our members a chance to hear a timely and important talk,” said AmCham Managing Director A Lin Neumann. “And after all, we would not have business without a secure international environment.”

PACOM’s area of command covers almost half of the earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the west coast of the US to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole. The Command, which is headquartered in Hawaii, has been protecting the region for 70 years.

The discussion focused on three major issues for Asia Pacific stability: the South China Sea, ISIS, and North Korea.

Harris said North Korea’s capability will continue to improve due to Kim Jong-un’s persistence and not being deterred by failure, even in the public eye. He said that PACOM is the combat support arm of US power and a complement to diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear arms program.

As the only ally of North Korea, China plays a vital role in the peaceful outcome on the Korean Peninsula. Thus, finding common ground with China on North Korea is important. But Admiral Harris remains concerned about China, whose actions in the South China Sea he sees as increasingly running counter to the international rules-based order.

China has been attempting to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features and spaces in the area, where it is fundamentally altering the physical and political landscape and militarizing man-made bases he said.

Admiral Harris said he thinks Indonesia’s efforts to fight illegal fishing, much of it by Chinese vessels, in its Exclusive Economic Zone has already been a great success. But to do even better, it requires a regional dialogue and regional solution. This is another reason why the US is committed to working with Indonesia and other regional partners in multilateral forums, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Harris called on ASEAN to do more to strengthen its ties and face the China challenge with a unified voice.

Another issue that hits home in Indonesia is ISIS. What is happening in Marawi in the Philippines, said Harris, should be a wake-up call and rallying cry for every nation in the Asia Pacific. It is critical that Indonesia and the US continue their efforts to destroy ISIS sooner rather than later.

Cooperative efforts in the vast and largely ungoverned maritime area connecting the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia will help deny terrorists space, recruits, and revenue streams, he said.

Harris also said Indonesia plays a significant role in stemming the influence of ISIS, and the coordination and relationship between PACOM and the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) are key to this effort. The two also have various other bilateral activities, which demonstrate the strength and depth of the strategic partnership, such as the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise between the US and the Indonesian navy; the Garuda Shield exercises between the US and Indonesian armies; and Gema Bhakti bilateral joint exercises.

Strategic partnership with Indonesia, he said, is necessary due to its location and socioeconomic aspects. The US, he said remains committed to strengthening this relationship to the challenges in the region.

For Admiral Harris’ full speech, click here.


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