(TheAustralian) Missiles risk arms race: Indonesia

Submitted by Editor on Sat, 28/08/2004 - 00:56

(TheAustralian) Missiles risk arms race: Indonesia
Kens comment: - With Google search below article -

INDONESIA has warned that Australia's decision to purchase long-range stealth cruise missiles could spark an arms race in the region.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10581411%2...

By Cameron Stewart

August 27, 2004

Jakarta has also criticised Canberra for not giving advance warning or fully explaining the reasons for the decision.

The attack, by Indonesia's chief foreign affairs spokesman, Marty Natalegawa, contradicted John Howard's prediction earlier yesterday that Australia's regional neighbours would understand the decision to purchase the new missiles.

Mr Natalegawa said Canberra could not expect its neighbours to react kindly to a decision to purchase long-range cruise missiles.

"You cannot arm yourselves to the teeth and expect that will lead, of itself, to a sense of security," he said. "You have to work with the region to share in a sense of security.

"It's a qualitative advance for the region. We know Australia's government has until now been against the proliferation of advanced missile technologies in the region.

"There is a risk that raising the level of sophistication could lead to some kind of a counter response."

The Australian Government was trying last night to stem further criticism in the region.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer confirmed that his diplomats were briefing Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand about the missiles.

As revealed exclusively in The Australian yesterday, the Government has decided to buy long-range stealth cruise missiles for its F/A-18 fighters and P3 Orion Maritime Patrol planes.

The move is aimed at safeguarding Australia's military advantage over its neighbours when the F-111 strike bombers are retired, from 2010.

The missiles will be the first air-launched, long-range cruise missiles in Southeast Asia, with a range of between 250 and 400 kilometres, depending on which missile is eventually chosen.

Opposition defence spokesman Kim Beazley said that, while he was not opposed to Australia's buying cruise missiles, the move could upset regional neighbours because the Government had not properly explained its decision.

"The problem with this Government is that it never bothers to go around the region and explain what it is doing," Mr Beazley said.

"And the unfortunate thing is that it brings this into play at a time when there is regional disagreement with our endorsing of national missile defences.

When Australia last beefed up its strike force -- with the purchase of extra F- 111s in 1993 -- its failure to tell Jakarta in advance led to stinging criticism from Indonesia.

The Prime Minister said the decision to spend up to $450million to buy the cruise missiles was based purely on Australia's defence interests and did not signal hostile intent.

"The important thing is the defence of Australia ... we make decisions based on Australia's defence interests," Mr Howard said. "Our regional neighbours will understand why we have done this."

But Mr Beazley said the missiles were an "expensive temporary fix" by the Government to try to cover a looming gap in air capability between the early retirement of the F-111s and the arrival of the new Joint Strike Fighter several years later.

The Government will choose from one of three options: the 400km-range Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile; the Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile, with a range of 350km; and a 250km-range cruise missile known as SLAM-ER.

AAP

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