U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Indonesia on Wednesday to make greater efforts to reform its armed forces, echoing calls from critics of Washington’s decision to restore military ties last year.
In an address to Indonesia’s World Affairs Council, Rice stressed that a “reformed and effective” Indonesian military was in the interests of everyone in a region beset by terrorism and unrest.
“We look for continued progress toward greater accountability and complete reform,” she said in prepared remarks at the end of a two-day visit to the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population.
“The greatest challenges now emerge more within states than between them and cannot be met by any one nation alone,” said Rice, who promised U.S. help to reform the military.
Security was tight at the speech venue, where guests had been asked to arrive two hours early for screening.
The United States restored military ties with Indonesia in November and has come under strong criticism from some human rights groups that believe the move was premature.
Washington had cut back military ties after Indonesian troops fired on demonstrators in East Timor in 1991, killing dozens, when the tiny territory was ruled by Jakarta.
Rice also urged Indonesia to pay greater attention to maritime security and said criminals were exploiting weaknesses and using the region’s waterways to smuggle drugs, weapons and people.
The top U.S. diplomat’s trip to Indonesia was intended to cement growing ties between the United States and a country of moderate Muslims that Washington hopes will wield some influence in a region where anti-American sentiment is rising.