U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, completing a two day visit to Indonesia, has urged the Jakarta government to press ahead with reforms that prompted the Bush administration to resume military aid to that country last year. The Secretary continues her overseas mission later Wednesday in Australia.
The administration decision, aimed at rewarding Indonesia for efforts against regional terrorism and strides in building democracy, has been attacked by human rights groups as having been premature.
In a policy address to the Indonesia World Affairs Council, the Secretary made clear the United States looks to further reforms by the Indonesian military to completely erase the stigma created by its 1990's human rights violations in East Timor.
"The United States has now resumed military ties with Indonesia, as this nation has chosen a democratic path. We look for continued progress toward greater accountability and complete reform in the military sphere," said Rice. "A reformed and affective Indonesian military is in the interest of every one in this region, because threats to our common security have not disappeared.
As she did in appearances here Tuesday, the Secretary held up Indonesia, the world's largest majority-Muslim country, as an example of political moderation and diversity for the rest of the world.
She praised the island nation, home to hundreds of different ethnicities and cultures, for shaking off the legacy of autocratic rule and withstanding what she called the horrific trial of the tsunami disaster at the end of 2004.
And she hailed last year's peace accord between the government and separatist rebels in Aceh, saying the Indonesian people had transformed an unspeakable tragedy in the region of northern Sumatra into a triumph for peace.
Secretary Rice said the United States stands ready to assist Indonesia, as it did with massive aid following the tsunami, in efforts to deal with the threats of avian influenza, maritime piracy, and to continue the fight against regional Islamic terrorist groups like Abu Sayyef and Jemaah Islamiyah.
Such groups, she said, want to destroy the region's dynamism and traditions of tolerance and to turn Southeast Asia into a ring of fire. She said terrorists have killed hundreds of innocent Indonesians, many of whom were Muslims, and must be dealt with.
"This region knows that terrorists must be actively confronted, and the United States is helping in that flight. We are working alongside countries like Malaysia and Singapore, and to build the capacity of others, like the Philippines, who have the will to fight terrorism but need help with the means. Indonesia is bringing terrorists to justice," Rice explained. "And these actions are empowering people across this region who possess the most enduring force of all, the force of tolerance. Muslim citizens in Southeast Asia are uniting Islamic traditions with democratic principles, and advancing the hope for peace in this region."
Rice said despite progress in Indonesia and several of its neighbors, democracy in the region still faces what she termed determined opponents, notably the military junta in Burma, which she said has held the Burmese peoples democratic aspirations, along with their most eloquent leader Aung San Suu Kyi, captive for some 15 years.
"A country that was once the jewel of Southeast Asia is now out of step with the entire modern experience of its region. A once thriving economy has collapsed. Universities that once attracted the best Asian minds are locked shut," she said. "The Burmese regime is now literally retreating into the depths of the country, closing its people off from the world and robbing them of their future."
The Secretary ends her globe-circling overseas trip in Australia, where she will meet Prime Minister John Howard and other government officials and take part in a trilaleral U.S.-Australia-Japan security dialogue.