JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s foreign minister said Monday he was baffled by the latest report of a top-secret document about Australia spying on Indonesia and offering to share that information with the U.S., saying he was not sure how snooping on a trade spat could relate to security.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said he found mind-boggling Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s explanation concerning allegations that Canberra conducted surveillance involving an American law firm hired by the Indonesian government to help in a trade dispute with the U.S.
In the document obtained by former U.S. National Security Agency system analyst Edward Snowden, Australia offered to share the information it collected with the NSA, The New York Times reported on its website over the weekend.
Abbott has refused to comment on the report but told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that any material gathered is “for the benefit of our friends” and to “protect our citizens and the citizens of other countries.”
“To suggest that the future of shrimp exports from Indonesia to the United States has an impact on Australian security is a bit too much,” Natalegawa said, referring to a dispute over Indonesia allegedly dumping shrimp on the U.S. at below-market prices.
“In our view, neighbors like Indonesia and Australia should be looking out for each other, not turning against each other. We should be listening to each and not listening in, and I think it is a very important and fine distinction,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Natalegawa in Jakarta on Monday, said the U.S. does not collect intelligence to give U.S. companies a commercial advantage.
Natalegawa said he and Kerry discussed how the U.S. is currently undergoing a review of its surveillance activities.
In statements to the Times and The Associated Press, the NSA said Sunday it “does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the U.S. government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself.”
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono canceled his meeting with Kerry scheduled for Monday and instead traveled to East Java to visit victims in shelters who were forced to evacuate when a volcano erupted last week, killing four people.