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Monday, February 27, 2006

US ready to help in Strait of Malacca security

Probably not a surprise, but, as reported here:
The United States on Monday pledged to help combat the threat of piracy and terrorism in the Straits of Malacca, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Details of the cooperation will be planned after Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore sign a pact in April outlining standard operating procedures for maritime security, said Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, which includesU.S. forces in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

"We are standing by to help. We are hopeful that when this agreement is formalized then we will have a better understanding of what we might do," Fallon, who is based in Hawaii, told a news conference.

Fallon, who is visiting the region, did not give details of the assistance that the U.S. wants to give to protect the waterway that is used annually by about 50,000 ships, carrying half the world's oil and a third of its commerce.

But regional officials have said that help would be sought from the United States, China, Japan and other powers to contribute equipment and expertise aimed at strengthening air patrols launched in September by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, the three countries that border the sea route. Theyalso conduct coordinated sea patrols.

The help is likely to be limited to capacity building and technical cooperation, without any foreign military presence in the strait. Malaysia and Indonesia have ruled out any direct foreign intervention, saying other countries must respect their territorial sovereignty.

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