Indonesia halts military drills with Australia in spy row

Last Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 14:32

Jakarta: Indonesia`s military chief has halted joint training exercises with Australian forces after Jakarta suspended cooperation with Canberra in several areas owing to an intensifying row over spying.
The move came as anger mounted in Indonesia at claims Australian spies targeted the phone of the president and his inner circle, with protesters in the central city of Yogyakarta burning an Australian flag in protest.

"Our people are furious, our country is insulted. Fight Australia," chanted dozens of students as they demonstrated at a university campus yesterday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced yesterday that cooperation with Australia was being halted in a number of areas, including on people-smuggling, military exercises and intelligence sharing.

Military chief Moeldoko said two military training exercises had already been suspended.

"What`s the point of joint training when they don`t trust us?" said the head of the armed forces, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, late yesterday.

He said a joint exercise in Darwin, northern Australia, which had been due to go on until Sunday, was being suspended and six F-16 fighter jets involved in it would return to Indonesia.

A joint training exercise with the Indonesian army`s special forces, Kopassus, in Lembang, West Java province, was also being suspended, he said.

The escalating row triggered by reports on Australian spying, based on documents leaked by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden, has pushed ties between Jakarta and Canberra to their lowest level since the turn of the century.

Jakarta has recalled its ambassador from Australia over the scandal and Yudhoyono has lambasted Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott for failing to show what he sees as a lack of remorse.

Abbott has expressed regret for any embarrassment caused but has so far refused to apologise, further infuriating Jakarta.

The leaked documents from Snowden, reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Guardian newspaper, showed that Australia`s electronic intelligence agency tracked Yudhoyono`s activity on his mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009, when Labor`s Kevin Rudd was prime minister.

At least one phone call was reportedly intercepted.

AFP

First Published: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 14:32

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