Japan voices concerns over Indonesia … but Asean bound by no-interference code

JAPANESE officials yesterday expressed their concerns over political instability in Indonesia in the face of silence from Asean members, who are bound by the cardinal principle of non-interference in each other’s affairs.

Speaking on the sidelines of preparatory meetings in Singapore for the Asean informal summit, a senior Japanese diplomat said Tokyo was concerned about unrest in the vast archipelago.

“The territorial integrity of Indonesia is vital for the stability of the rest of Asia,” he said.

More specifically, he said that Japan was affected directly by developments there and was concerned, for example, that unrest could disrupt its oil-tanker shipments from the Middle East, which use the Malacca Straits between Malaysia and Indonesia.

“The bulk of oil imports for Japan and other countries passes through the sea lanes,” he said.

“It is important that we help Jakarta achieve stability and stay united.”

He did not elaborate on what initiatives Tokyo was offering Jakarta to help it, but did point to Japan’s substantial aid to the country during the recent meeting of the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI).

But his comments at the bilateral talks between Asean and Japanese senior officials reportedly drew a muted response from the 10-member organisation.

Asean officials at the meeting said none of the member countries wanted to be drawn into the discussion given that Jakarta might not take too kindly to “any intrusion into its internal affairs”.

Mr Hasan Wirayuda, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director-general for political affairs, told reporters later that Japan was free to comment on Indonesia.

“Japan’s concern is pertinent and relevant. We welcome it,” he said without elaborating.

Other Indonesian officials said that they were not bothered by the remarks as long as it did not translate into “involvement in our domestic politics”.

An Indonesian diplomat said: “We have to draw the line somewhere because Asean bases itself on the principle of non-interference.

“We don’t mind if countries can help us with funds and humanitarian assistance in our provinces. But we resist any attempts to interfere in our politics in the need to promote democracy or whatever.”

He said that Tokyo was sincere in its help for Indonesia, pointing to the CGI assistance.

But other countries like the United States “do not believe in giving a free lunch”.

“The Americans have given us pittance compared to the Japanese,” the diplomat said.

“But they want so much back in return and that means telling us what to do in running the country.

“We find that objectionable.”

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