This week, the United States and Indonesia concluded the latest iteration of ongoing exercises between their marine corps. While the interaction was just one among many between the two sides and follows similar engagements in previous years on this front as well, it nonetheless highlighted some of the ongoing activity within their defense relationship.
As I have noted before in these pages, the United States and Indonesia share a military relationship that has included a range of interactions including visits, exchanges, and regular exercises since select restrictions in place in the 1990s were lifted under the George W. Bush administration.
The defense relationship has continued to be advanced into 2019 as well amid some changes, with Indonesia coming out of a recent election with implications for its foreign and defense policy and the United States seeing Patrick Shanahan assume the Defense Secretary post following James Mattis’ departure. Indeed, as I observed recently, we just saw a meeting between the two defense chiefs last month that helped put the spotlight on bilateral security ties, including potential areas where they could be strengthened.
This week, the defense relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of another interaction between the United States and Indonesia. The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and the Indonesian Marine Corps (KORMAR) held what was characterized as a pre-arranged exercise that kicked off on June 11 at Bhumi Marines Base in Gedangan, Sidoarjo.
Per Indonesian state news agency Antara, the interaction was officially part of a subject matter expert exchange covering non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) and rapid response planning process (R2P2) between the two sides. The engagements between both countries, which local media reports said involved around 40 personnel, are expected to last until June 17.
The exercise should be seen as part of ongoing efforts by both sides in this area, with similar engagements being held in recent years which have included the marine corps. Relaying his remarks via a representative at the opening ceremony of the exercise, Marine Corps Commander Suhartono characterized the exercise as part of an effort to not only increase the capabilities of the Indonesian military, but also to build up trust and understanding between the United States and Indonesia.
Unsurprisingly, few additional details were disclosed about the interaction between the two sides. Nonetheless, such interactions will continue to be important to monitor to get a sense for the full range of activities underway within the broader defense relationship between both countries.