World

French defense chief to
meet Purnomo for likely
arms sales talks

French Defense Minister Hervé Morin is slated to meet his Indonesian counterpart Wednesday morning and may discuss arms or military equipment sales as Jakarta looks to upgrade the Indonesian Military (TNI).

A press statement issued by the Indonesian Defense Ministry on Tuesday confirmed a bilateral meeting to be carried out between the two ministers the next day.

The ministry's spokesman I Wayan Midhio said Monday that Morin's visit was "merely a courtesy call".

Although he did not know what would be discussed during the bilateral meeting, he said Indonesia had made many orders of military equipment from France, including avionics (aviation electronics) and radars (for aircraft or vessels).

The French Embassy in Jakarta said in a press statement Monday that Morin's visit would follow up a meeting between Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Dec. 14, 2009.

"The French minister will submit to his Indonesian counterpart a draft agreement on cooperation in the field of defense that may be signed later this year," it said.

Morin, who flew to Jakarta after a visit in Hanoi, was initially scheduled to meet Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro Tuesday morning during his two-day visit to Indonesia but canceled it.

In Vietnam, Morin said France was willing to help Hanoi modernize its military, Reuters reported Tuesday.

"We understand that Vietnam wants modernized military equipment from many different sources and France is ready to meet all Vietnam's needs," Reuters quoted online news portal VietnamNet.

Vietnam recently bought radars, helicopters and transport aircraft from France as the country gradually upgrades its antiquated armed forces.

A number of foreign defense ministers appear to have approached the Indonesian government to try sell their arms or military equipment as it is upgrading its military.

Pakistan Defense Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar, who came to Jakarta last Wednesday, offered his Indonesian counterpart the latest jet fighter called the JF-17.

The jet fighter is produced jointly by Pakistan and China and is claimed by manufacturers as cheaper and stronger than the US-manufactured F-16. In response, Purnomo said there would be further discussion on the matter later in October.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also came to Jakarta last Thursday. He met Yudhoyono and Indonesia's ministers during his whirlwind visit here.

Although Gates said he discussed a wide range of issues during his visit, it was not clear whether any arms sales discussions took place between Gates and either Indonesian officials and the President.

But Purnomo had earlier told Gates of the Indonesian government's interest to buy F-16 jet fighters from the US to complete the Indonesian Air Force's squadron, as part of the TNI's modernization program, in a bilateral meeting in Singapore on the sidelines of the Shangri-La meeting early June.

This month Indonesia and South Korea signed an MoU, stipulating joint development of FSX jet fighters, higher in class than the F-16.

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