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    Indonesia Not Ready to Support Japan's Security Council Bid

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    Indonesia's leader, on a visit to Japan, has failed to say the one thing Japanese officials really wanted to hear - an unequivocal endorsement of Tokyo's quest for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. But there was progress on boosting economic ties.

    Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono praised Japan for its "crucial role" in the economic development of the region and said he hopes that will continue.

    The Indonesian leader also said Jakarta and Tokyo will work together to promote reform of the United Nations. But at a news conference he stopped short of backing Japan's bid for a permanent Security Council seat - either with or without veto power.

    "There is eligibility of Japan to run for the candidacy of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council," he said. "But the Indonesian stance will, of course, be announced in due time because we are still exercising, we are still formulating, that kind of formal stance [and] recommendations."

    Indonesia is in a delicate situation when it comes to this issue. While Japan has been a major investor and aid donor in Indonesia, Jakarta is building stronger ties - including military cooperation - with Beijing, which strongly opposes Japan holding a permanent seat.

    Japan, Brazil, Germany, and India have banded together in an effort to create up to six new permanent council positions.

    China's ambassador to the United Nations this week called the so-called G-4 proposal dangerous, saying it would divide the world body and derail discussion of U.N. reforms.

    Japan and Indonesia did find themselves in agreement on trade issues, during Mr. Yudhoyono's four-day visit.

    Japanese officials say the Indonesian president and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi talked for 20 minutes Thursday, their fourth meeting since last November, and agreed to begin negotiations on a free trade pact next month.

    A trade deal would give Japanese companies greater access to Indonesia, the world's fourth most-populous nation. Indonesia supplies Japan with significant quantities of oil and gas, helping to make Japan Indonesia's biggest overseas market, accounting for about a quarter of its exports.

    Japan already has free trade pacts with Singapore and Mexico and less than two weeks ago concluded a similar agreement with Malaysia. It is also in trade discussions with South Korean and Thailand.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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