WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2018 — Defense Secretary James N. Mattis met yesterday with Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu in Jakarta, their third meeting since Mattis was sworn in a year ago, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, Dana W. White, said in a statement.
“Mattis noted the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia partnership, recognizing that the two are like-minded partners with diverse populations who share a commitment to democracy, peace and prosperity,” White said.
The two leaders discussed the security situation in the region, to include North Korea, the South China Sea and the North Natuna Sea, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Rohingya refugee crisis, she said.
In July, Indonesia designated the northern section of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea as the “North Natuna Sea.” The area is part of the region claimed by China in its contested nine-dash line.
The defense secretary noted that Indonesia is the “maritime fulcrum” between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, White said, and that the U.S. would continue to strengthen its strong military-to-military relationship with Indonesia in the future.
“Mattis thanked Indonesia for its efforts to implement international sanctions against North Korea, emphasizing that the issue was still in the diplomatic realm to resolve,” the spokesperson said.
The defense secretary applauded Indonesia’s efforts to work with its neighbors — especially Malaysia and the Philippines — to cooperate on counterterrorism efforts, and he pledged to provide additional assistance as requested with maritime domain awareness, while rebuilding education and training with Indonesian military units that play a critical role in preventing ISIS and other terrorist organizations from establishing a foothold in the Sulu Sea area near the southwestern Philippines, White said.
The U.S. discontinued military assistance to Indonesia’s Komando Pasukan Khusus counterterrorism unit, known as Kopassus, in 1999 after the State Department determined that they were committing human rights violations. Some restrictions were lifted in 2010, but the U.S. military is still forbidden to conduct training activities with the unit.
On the Rohingya situation, Mattis said that the U.S. is fully engaged in diplomatic efforts to end this tragedy, and that beyond humanitarian aid, the focus must be on stopping the actions that are causing people to become refugees, White said.
The two leaders also discussed the recently released National Defense Strategy, which underscores the Defense Department’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, to the nation’s partnerships and to the sovereignty and respect due all nations, the spokesperson said.
Mattis met with Indonesian Defense Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto today and observed a demonstration by Indonesian special operations troops. The defense secretary travels next to Malaysia for meetings with senior government and military officials.