- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico The tense security environment in Asia has introduced new strains here between key members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, meeting for their annual summit at this Mexican coastal resort.
Indonesia and Thailand, both with economies heavily dependent on tourism, found themselves on the defensive over rising terrorist activity in the region, with fellow APEC members insisting they do more to address security threats within their borders.
Australians accounted for more than half of the nearly 200 killed in the recent bombing of a popular nightspot in Bali, Indonesia, and the subject dominated a bilateral meeting here yesterday between Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesian Prime Minister Megawati Sukarnoputri.
"No amount of international exhortations can substitute for the determination of individual governments who know they have a terrorist problem within their borders," Mr. Howard told reporters after the meeting.
"I put very strongly to President Megawati the need for the strongest possible measures to be taken against terrorism in Indonesia," he said.
Indonesia, where 40 percent of the economy is tied to international tourism, has suffered a stinging blow since the Bali bombing, with hotel reservation rates plummeting. Mrs. Megawati has appealed to Australia, the United States and European countries to lift travel warnings to her country, to little avail.
Indonesia has been urged to crack down on the Islamist organization Jemaah Islamiyah, suspected of having ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. Singapore and Malaysia, also APEC members, have criticized Indonesia's anti-terrorism efforts.
Indonesia-Australia relations had already been tense over Indonesian complaints that Australian nongovernmental organizations had been working with separatist movements in West Papua and Aceh. Australian forces also took a lead role in the international mission to provide security for East Timor in its bloody struggle to break free from Indonesia.
Amien Rais, speaker of the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly and one of the country's most influential politicians, refused to meet with Mr. Howard when the prime minister traveled to Jakarta early this year.
Thailand, seen as relatively free of terrorist activity in Southeast Asia, also came in for scrutiny here after warnings from neighboring Malaysia that eight al Qaeda operatives may have crossed the border into the area near the popular Thai resort area Phuken. Australia has already warned vacationers to "reconsider or be extremely careful" if traveling there.
Thai officials, who will be host to the 2003 APEC summit, rejected any suggestion that their country presented a new front in the global war on terrorism.
"Thailand is not the target of terrorist attacks," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said yesterday in a radio address here broadcast back in Thailand.
Despite the strains among APEC members, the 21 Pacific Rim countries adopted a series of anti-terrorist measures yesterday to reinforce civil planes' cockpit doors, tighten baggage checks and boost maritime security, the White House said in a statement. The package was adopted by APEC leaders including President Bush.
It is known as the Secure Trade in the APEC region (STAR) initiative.
"The STAR initiative commits APEC economies to accelerate action on screening people and cargo for security before transit, increasing security on ships and airplanes while en route, and enhancing security in airports and seaports," the statement said.
Under the plan, APEC economies will:
Introduce new baggage-screening procedures and equipment in all APEC-member airports by 2005.
Reinforce flight-deck doors of passenger aircraft by April 2003.
Identify and examine high-risk sea containers, providing advance electronic information to customs, port and shipping officials.
This article is based in part on wire service reports


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