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Koizumi, Megawati Discuss Reform, War on Terrorism


Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held talks with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri Saturday on the fourth leg of his five nation Southeast Asian tour. The leaders discussed the war on terrorism and the future of trade among Asian nations.

After talks with Ms. Megawati, Mr. Koizumi said he told the Indonesian president that the country's stability was not only important to Indonesia, but to the whole Asia - Pacific region. Mr. Koizumi said Japan respected the territorial integrity of Indonesia and it's continuing economic recovery.

Japan is Indonesia's largest donor nation and a major investor. Indonesia is still struggling to recover from the effects of the 1997 Asian economic crisis that plunged the country into social and political chaos.

Indonesia is currently struggling to control several radical Islamic groups that have been accused of having ties to the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden, but local officials say there is no evidence of a link.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, but the vast majority of people are moderate Muslims and shun terrorism.

Mr. Koizumi said Japan supports Indonesia's efforts to control terrorism and would provide cooperation to the country as needed. He said he also discussed the problems of the separatist movement in Indonesia's Aceh province with Ms. Megawati, and the government's continuing efforts on economic and judicial reform.

Mr. Koizumi briefly touched on the major message he has been carrying to the other Asian nations he has visited so far, which is his vision of an Asian free trade zone.

So far Mr. Koizumi has won support from the Philippines and Thailand in his quest to create a free trade zone among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Japan, South Korea, and China, but Malaysia has responded cautiously.

Analysts say Mr. Koizumi's vision of economic cooperation centering on free trade agreements in the region is his response to China's growing influence in the region.

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