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RI criticizes air strike ahead of Pence visit
Jakarta Post - April 8, 2017
Indonesia has raised concerns about the United States' recent unilateral air strike on Syria, which was launched on US President Donald Trump's order and has sparked mixed international reactions.
The Pentagon hit Shayrat Airfield in Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles early Friday morning, local time, as a response to the Syrian government's chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, the US Defense Department said on its website. In the statement, Trump said the targeted military strike was "in the vital national security interest of the US to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
Some European countries, such as Germany, Britain, Italy and Turkey, have expressed their support for the air strike, while Russia and Iran have condemned it, Reuters has reported.
Indonesia's statement came ahead of a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence to Indonesia, which is slated for April 20 to 21 and is expected to boost strategic ties.
Although it is unclear whether Jakarta will bring the Syrian issue to the table during Pence's visit – which was scheduled weeks before the attack – speculation is growing that the US and Indonesia might also discuss security issues and possibly terrorism.
Jakarta said on Friday that the air strike contravened international legal principles for the peaceful settlement of disputes as stipulated in the UN Charter, arguing it had not obtained the authorization of the UN Security Council.
"For Indonesia, peace and stability in Syria can only be achieved through dialogue, an inclusive political process and all parties restraining themselves and stopping all acts of violence," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir told a press briefing on Friday.
He further called for respect and the protection of human rights, as well as for continued open humanitarian access to Syria, requesting the UN Security Council – which Reuters reports is set to hold a meeting soon to discuss the US cruise missile strikes on Syria – take immediate steps to resolve the crisis in Syria.
Indonesia has long promoted its preference for peaceful diplomacy as the way to end the Syrian civil war, having attended UN-sponsored peace talks in the past, including the Geneva II Conference on Syria in 2014 in Switzerland, which was also attended by then-US state secretary John Kerry.
As a state that is party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which aims to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction, Indonesia has also strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria that have reportedly killed dozens of civilians.
As a part of his first official tour of the Asia-Pacific region, with stopovers in key countries such as South Korea, Japan and Australia, Pence is set to visit Jakarta, where he will pay a courtesy call to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and conduct a bilateral meeting with Vice President Jusuf Kalla.
US Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph R. Donovan issued a statement ahead of Pence's trip, saying that the visit reflected the US' continuing commitment to its strategic partnership with the Southeast Asian country.
"His engagement with Indonesian leaders will serve to strengthen our strategic partnership through discussions centered on deepening our economic engagement, boosting our cooperation on shared regional security priorities and increasing our people-to-people contact and exchanges," Joseph said.
A US executive order accusing 16 countries of "cheating" in trade is also likely make its way into the talks, as Trump has previously called for an investigation into the "trade imbalance" between the US and 16 countries, including Indonesia.
"It should be underlined that bilateral trade relations must benefit both sides, not only one party, and in connection to this, [trade] should also be carried out in accordance with the globally applicable rules," the Foreign Ministry's US Affairs director, Adam Mulawarman Tugio, said.
Despite its concerns about the Trump administration, Indonesia is likely to seek to maintain good relations with the US during Pence's upcoming visit, said Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) international relations expert Adriana Elisabeth.
"As there has yet to be an Asia policy announced, even until now, the visit will be an opportunity to find out more about the US' approach to the region and to Indonesia," she added.