29 May 2014
China’s intensifying move to assert claims over the South China Sea has given fresh impetus to a military buildup inIndonesia that will see its forces deployed with greater focus on external risks.
After years of concentrating on separatist threats across an archipelago long enough to stretch from New York toAlaska, Indonesia plans to deploy attack helicopters to its islands at the southern end of the South China Sea and expand its naval power. The front-runner for July’s presidential election, Joko Widodo, aims to boost defense spending to 1.5 percent as a share of the economy, which is Southeast Asia’s largest.
The strategy shift comes as China escalates disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam, fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asean Nations. China’s standoff with Vietnam over an oil rig this month followed its 2012 success in taking control of the Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines.
… “It’s the largest country in Southeast Asia and they want to play what they think is a corresponding role,” Richard Bitzinger, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said. “You’re not going to get that unless you develop a sizable, modern military, because at this point the military is pretty small potatoes.”
GPO / IDSS / RSIS / Online
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