Indonesia military chief 'disappointed' by his US travel ban

General Gatot Nurmantyo was blocked from travelling to the US for a conference, despite having been invited by US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Joseph Dunford.

JAKARTA - Indonesian armed forces chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, on Tuesday (Oct 24) sought to play down the brouhaha over his US travel ban, saying that the situation will be resolved by the foreign ministry.

General Gatot said he currently has no plans to make a trip to Washington D.C., even though he has been cleared to fly by the US authorities.

"My planned trip to the US was based on an order from the President, therefore I represent the government," said the general at the presidential palace after an unrelated event. "I only would go based on the President's order, without that I have no plans whatsoever."

News broke over the weekend that he was blocked from travelling to the US on Saturday for a conference, despite having been invited by General Joseph Dunford, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

Several US officials have apologised for incident over the last three days, including Defence Secretary James Mattis, who on Monday guaranteed his Indonesian counterpart Ryamizard Ryacudu that such an incident would not be repeated.

According to The Jakarta Post, Mr Mattis apologised to Mr Ryamizard at a closed-door meeting in Clark in the Philippines, where the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting is being held.

US Deputy Ambassador to Indonesia, Ms Erin Elizabeth McKee, also indicated on Monday that there are no restrictions on General Gatot and the US Embassy is "working very hard to understand what transpired in this incident, and we hope that it will not happen again".

Ms McKee was speaking to the media after she was summoned to the Indonesian foreign ministry in Jakarta earlier and met Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

When asked by reporters to shed more light on the issue, General Gatot would only say, citing Ms Retno, that the US and Indonesia have friendly relations. General Gatot referred the media to Indonesia's foreign ministry, which is taking the lead on the matter.

"Let's monitor what (the foreign ministry) is doing, see what the solution would be, we (the armed forces and parties outside the foreign ministry) should not be making our own separate move on this," he added.

When asked if he was disappointed with the situation, he replied: "Am I disappointed? Yes, I am disappointed. Why? General Dunford and I are good friends. When I was there the last time, we had coffee in the morning at his home and in evening we were invited to a dinner, had good steak, and what was more impressive was that American soldiers sung our Indonesian folk song Bengawan Solo. I had expected to meet him again."

Ms Retno said Jakarta has demanded that Washington explain the incident and she is waiting for the US to respond.

The two countries have enjoyed strong bilateral relations, especially after the US lifted an arms embargo stretching from the 1991 conflict in then-East Timor to the start of President George W. Bush's second term in 2005. Since then, the armed forces of both countries have cooperated on several levels.

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