Indonesia summons Australian envoy as spy row spreads in Asia
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Last Updated: Friday, November 01, 2013, 14:51
  
Jakarta: Indonesia summoned the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta on Friday over a "totally unacceptable" report that his embassy was among diplomatic posts in Asia being used in a vast American surveillance operation.

China and Malaysia have demanded an explanation from Washington over claims that American embassies and consulates in the region were being used for monitoring phone calls and communications networks.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, amplifying an earlier report by the German magazine Der Spiegel, said earlier this week that a top-secret map leaked by fugitive intelligence analyst Edward Snowden showed 90 US surveillance facilities at diplomatic missions worldwide.

The paper also reported that Australian embassies in Asia were being used as part of the US-led spying network.

The growing anger in Asia followed days of protests from America's European allies after reports, based on leaks from Snowden, that Washington collected tens of millions of telephone calls and online communications in Europe.

Jakarta announced late Thursday it was calling in the Australian ambassador after the Sydney Morning Herald reported that his embassy was being used as part of the US spying operation -- a claim that Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said was "just not cricket".

Ambassador Greg Moriarty arrived early Friday at the Foreign Ministry in the Indonesian capital, walking past a crowd of waiting journalists.

After a 20-minute meeting, he emerged and told reporters: "I just spoke to the secretary general, and from my perspective, it was a good meeting and now I have to go and report directly to my government."

Announcing its decision to summon the envoy late Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said: "As a friendly neighbouring country, such an act as reported does not reflect the spirit of friendly relations which has been established and is something that's totally unacceptable to the government of Indonesia."

Natalegawa, speaking on Friday after talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop in Perth, said his government was "obviously deeply concerned".

"Most of all, it's about trust," he said, adding: "I'm not sure what's the right term in Australian terminology, I guess it's not cricket to do this kind of thing."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the secret map showed there were US intelligence facilities at diplomatic posts in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Yangon.

However, Indonesia has so far been the most vocal in the region in expressing its anger.

Jakarta lodged a strong protest with the US charge d'affaires on Wednesday over the reports.

Anger is also growing in other Asian capitals, with Beijing on Thursday expressing "severe concerns" about the reports.

US intelligence facilities in East Asia were reportedly focused on China, with centres in the US embassy in Beijing and US consulates in the commercial hub Shanghai and Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan.

"We require the US to make a clarification and give an explanation," Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters.

"We require friendly diplomatic missions and personnel in China to strictly abide by international treaties... and do not engage in any activity that... may jeopardise China's security and interests."

In Kuala Lumpur, the foreign minister said it had "sought clarification" from US ambassador to Malaysia Joseph Yun over the allegations.

The ministry "is working closely with the relevant Malaysian authorities on this matter and should there be any compelling evidence, the ministry would seek recourse," it said in a statement.

The reaction from other Southeast Asian nations mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald report was more muted, however.

Thailand's National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut dismissed the report as "groundless”, while a Cambodian spokesman also shrugged it off.

"The USA used electronic surveillance for a long time already. It is not a surprise for us," said government spokesman Khieu Kanharith.

Myanmar said it had no "firm evidence" of US spying, but its presidential spokesman Ye Htut added that the US "should not violate people's rights and interfere in another country's affairs if their national security is not threatened".

Reuters

First Published: Friday, November 01, 2013, 09:42


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