Two American ships have arrived off the coast of Indonesia's port city of Surabaya to take part in a humanitarian exercise with the Indonesian Navy. The exercise does not violate Washington's ban on military ties with Indonesia, but some groups warn that the U.S. could be preparing to overlook past human rights abuses by Indonesian forces.
U.S. officials say the training exercise between the American and Indonesian navies is intended to improve Indonesia's ability to provide relief during natural disasters, such as earthquakes and typhoons.
At least two of three U.S. Navy vessels taking part in the exercise have arrived off the Indonesian city of Surabaya. The exercise, called "Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training," also was held last year.
Washington suspended ties with the Indonesian military in 1999, after it was implicated in the destruction of East Timor. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands were forcibly deported by anti-independence militia groups. Human rights organizations charge the militias had the support of elements of the Indonesian military.
But since the September 11 attacks on the United States, analysts say Washington's war on terror may lead to a weakening of the Leahy Amendment the legislation restricts U.S. links to the Indonesian military.
Sidney Jones is with the Jakarta office of the think tank, the International Crisis Group. "I think the U.S. and the Bush administration in particular are interested in any and all measures possible to strengthen relations with the Indonesian Armed Forces. I think this humanitarian training with the marines is one aspect of that. But I think they're looking at a lot of different ways to resume normal relations," Mr. Jones said.
Indonesia has complied with some of the requirements of the Leahy Amendment, such as the demarcation of Indonesia's border with East Timor, and allowing refugees who had fled to West Timor to return home.
The government also created a human rights court to try some mid-ranking Indonesian officials accused of abuses in East Timor.
Human rights groups, however, say the court's mandate is too limited for real justice to be achieved. Many East Timorese and international human rights groups want an international human rights tribunal to be formed to try Indonesians accused of orchestrating the destruction of East Timor.