Monday, January 09, 2012

Indonesia admits to sending fighter jets


INDONESIA has admitted sending its jet fighters to intercept an aircraft carrying top Papua New Guinea officials, a move which has driven diplomatic relations between the two neighbouring countries to a new low, The National reports.
Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah has threatened to expel Indonesian Ambassador to PNG Andreas Sitepu from Port Moresby if the Indonesian government fails to provide an explanation for the incident within 48 hours.
The incident took place on Nov 29 when Namah and several senior government officials flew through Indonesian airspace en route to Port Moresby from Malaysia.
The Jakarta Post reported last Friday that the Indonesian foreign ministry had stated in a press statement that the interception by the air force was due to “technical issues”, specifically data differences, in regards to the aircraft’s flight clearance.
“The measures that Indonesia carried out, in this case the interception of the aircraft by the air force, were in line with existing procedures in Indonesia and other countries in general,” the ministry said.
“The national air defence command (Kohanudnas) was conducting an electronic identification with radar and a visual identification by intercepting (the aircraft) according to standard procedures, and no harm occurred,” it added.
The ministry further said Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa had explained the incident to PNG ambassador Peter Ilau.
“The PNG ambassador to Indonesia has expressed his appreciation for the Indonesian foreign minister’s explanation, and said he would convey the message to his government,” he said.
But the defence ministry refused to acknowledge the incident.
Ministry spokesman Brig-Gen Hartind Asrin said no aircraft had ever tried to intercept PNG’s aircraft as claimed by the PNG government.
“PNG’s deputy prime minister flew from Kuala Lumpur to Port Moresby on Nov 29, but nothing happened,” he said.
“I have talked to our defence attaché in Port Moresby, and there have been no complaints filed by the PNG government or any other fuss regarding the claim.”
Hartind said if any aircraft had tried to intercept the PNG jet, “they were probably from other countries”.
Two Indonesian  air force fighters intercepted the Falcon Jet over Indonesian airspace on Nov 29 and was not reported until The National broke the story last Friday.
Namah said the jet fighters were acting aggressively with the intention to intimidate.
“I am very angry. I demand an explanation.
“If I do not get an explanation within 48 hours, all diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea will be strained,” Namah said.

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