Indonesia protests to Korea over alleged US spying role

Anti-Australia protesters burn Australian flags during a rally in front of the Australian embassy location in Malang, East Java, on November 22, 2013.

Indonesia has lodged a protest against South Korea's alleged support of US interception of undersea telecommunications channels across Asia, Seoul's Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday.

Jakarta's Vice Foreign Minister Wardana called in Seoul's ambassador Kim Young-sun on Tuesday at the instruction of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

That was apparently to verify news reports that South Korea and Singapore are key "third parties" helping what is called the "Five Eyes" partners ― the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand ― tap high-speed fiber optic cables at 20 locations worldwide. The reports cited a secret US National Security Agency map leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The ministry denied the reports.

"What is clear is that the report is not true. The Indonesian government summoned our ambassador and he explained our government's position during the meeting," spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters.

The NSA map, published by Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, shows that Washington maintains a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the US West Coast and in Hawaii and Guam, according to Australia's Sydney Morning Herald.

The map also showed South Korea to be a key interception point, with cable landings at Busan that provide access to the external communications of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, it said.

Seoul's National Intelligence Service is believed to have long been working with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies abroad.

Indonesia and Malaysia have been subject to Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since the 1970s, the daily said. Much of Indonesia's telecommunications and Internet traffic flows through Singapore.

Suspected US eavesdropping and data interception revealed by Snowden has placed the NSA at the centre of a global furor.

In New York, a UN rights committee on Tuesday passed a "right to privacy" resolution initiated by Germany and Brazil and co-sponsored by 55 countries including France, Russia and North Korea.

Reports picked the South Korean Embassy in Washington as one of the NSA's surveillance targets. Seoul, a staunch US ally, has been criticised for its lukewarm response in contrast with other governments that lodged a strong protest and demanded an apology.