Yudhoyono to urge ASEAN to reject spying

Yudhoyono to urge ASEAN to reject spying

INDONESIAN President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said he will urge ASEAN leaders at their next summit to reject spying, a move backed by Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

His statement, which did not single out any state, was prompted by recent disclosures originating from former United States intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that revealed spying activities on countries in the region, including Indonesia and Malaysia.

"We are in agreement to ask the other ASEAN countries to unite to reject spying. Mutual trust and mutual respect is important in international relations," Dr Yudhoyono told reporters at the presidential palace where the two leaders met on Thursday.

It is the 10th Malaysia-Indonesia annual bilateral meeting and the fourth such meeting between them.

In a wide-ranging discussion lasting over two hours, the leaders also pledged to ramp up trade between their countries to US$30 billion (S$37.8 billion) by 2015, up from last year's US$23 billion.

The two countries share common borders on land and sea and have peaceful and close ties that occasionally heat up when nationalistic sentiments are fanned over foreign worker issues and border incidents involving their fishermen who trespass each other's territories.

Malaysia's Datuk Seri Najib led eight ministers and senior officials in the meeting with Dr Yudhoyono and 21 Indonesian ministers.

On the spying issue, Dr Yudhoyono said: "I am glad to hear that the PM has supported my initiative, which I will convey to the ASEAN summit so that there will be an intra-ASEAN agreement to reject spying activities... be it spying by other nations on ASEAN nations or between ASEAN nations themselves."

Mr Najib pledged Malaysia's support, saying: "I agree that the issue be given attention at the upcoming ASEAN meeting, and when proposed, Malaysia will give our strong support for the proposal."

Indonesia suspended security exchanges with Australia and recalled its envoy to Canberra last month after revelations that Australia was using its embassies in Jakarta and other capitals in the region to intercept phone calls and data as part of a United States-led spying network in Asia. In 2009, its spies had tapped the phones of Dr Yudhoyono, his wife and eight Indonesian officials.

Reports emerged that Singapore and South Korea also had a role in the surveillance, causing Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to suggest two weeks ago that ASEAN nations meet to declare the extent of their spying on fellow members of the bloc to prevent "lurching from one crisis to another" with new disclosures.

Dr Yudhoyono also welcomed Malaysia's move to review the permits of Indonesian illegal workers in Malaysia.

Indonesians form the largest number of foreign workers in Malaysia, making up half of some 1.6 million legal workers in Malaysia. They remitted home US$1 billion last year.

The two leaders also discussed strengthening cooperation on border policing and measures to mitigate the impact of the annual regional haze.


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