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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 5, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 44

'East Timor Is a Tough Job'
Australia's Downer on relations with Asia
By SANGWON SUH and JOSE MANUEL TESORO Jakarta

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Indonesia: Unity in Diversity?
Maybe the all-inclusive new government will work. It had better
Call 'Em Wahidisms Quotations: The world according to Gus Dur
Is He Strong Enough? Wahid's health raises concerns
The Fight for Megawati Behind the scenes of the V.P. election
'East Timor Is a Tough Job' Australia's Downer on relations with Asia

ASEAN: An Indochinese Caucus After a conclave in Vientiane, fears of a split

Malaysia: Now, the Sinatra Principle 'We all did it our own way,' croons Mahathir
The Maps to Power Voting districts lay a confusing quilt
Trial by Dirt Anwar's claims fill the court and the media

The Philippines: 'My Ratings Are Down!' Estrada is moving into damage control

Viewpoint: Beyond Groundhog Day Is this Pyongyang's last chance to end the false starts?

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In a dramatic twist, Abdurrahman Wahid becomes Indonesia's leader. Can he rule?

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All Bets Are Off
In the race for the presidency, new power balances are surfacing and the office is up for grabs (10/15/99)

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Chronology of Indonesian crisis

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Online Exclusive
A Q&A with Amien Rais, head of Indonesia's National Mandate Party (PAN)

Alexander Downer, Australia's foreign minister, attended the World Economic Forum's East Asia Economic Summit in Singapore last week. Excerpts from an interview with Senior Correspondent Alejandro Reyes:

Are you disappointed by Southeast Asian criticism of Australia's role in East Timor?
Australia was asked to do the job and most people would judge it is doing the job very well. It's a tough job. But it's important that the East Timor issue be resolved once and for all. Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines are making a strong contribution to Interfet [the peacekeeping force] and we really appreciate it. There has been criticism in Indonesia and from some sectors in Malaysia, but around Southeast Asia there is much respect for what Australia is doing.

Should Southeast Asia take the lead when the United Nations force comes in?
There will be a transition from Interfet to the U.N. We hope it will be sooner rather than later, perhaps at the end of this year or in January. Our expectation is that countries in the region, not just Southeast Asia, will make a significant contribution. Australia will continue to contribute, though on a smaller scale. We will go from 4,500 troops down to between 1,500 and 2,000.

Are Australia's ties with Asia dented by East Timor?
The reverse is true. What we have done is appreciated by countries such as Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan and Korea. You can't talk about Asia as some monolithic whole. There has been criticism in Indonesia, but this is just using Australia as a scapegoat. It isn't based on fact. The fact is that [Jakarta] decided it would allow a referendum and the referendum produced the result it did. The fact is that Indonesia, when security broke down in East Timor, asked the international community to come in and help restore security. And that has happened. The criticism will blow over.

Is there a "Howard doctrine"?
We've never used the expression as a government. It was used by a magazine. Our position has been - and remains - that we work closely with countries in our region, with which we have deep and strong relations. Gone with the Cold War are the days when nations, whichever side they were on, can just signal to Washington or Moscow that they would like them to come in and fix some problem. Now the region has to be more self-sufficient in addressing its problems. Though we much appreciate U.S. support for Interfet, it is a regional country, Australia, which has had to take the leading role. That's just the way the world is today. I wouldn't call that any doctrine.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home

AsiaNow


Intelligence: The View from Down Under
An interview with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer [more extracts from this interview]

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