The top military commanders of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are scheduled to meet on July 20 in Batam, Riau Islands province, Indonesia, to sign an agreement on security patrols in the Strait of Malacca.
Indonesian Military chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said on Wednesday that under the agreement, the three neighboring counties would take turns carrying out year-round naval patrols in the strait to combat or prevent acts of terrorism and other crimes.
Patrolling forces would be allowed to cross the sea borders of the two other countries while chasing criminal or terror suspects in the waterway, he said.
"We understand the strategic value of the strait, through which some 50,000 ships belonging to many countries pass each year. They want it secure and they would be glad to help do so," Endiartono said after a coordination meeting on political and security affairs.
He said that he and his Malaysian and Singaporean counterparts were ready to cooperate with other countries in ensuring security in the strait, but stressed that the three countries would be fully responsible for the actual patrols.
He was quick to add that cooperation with other countries, including the United States, was possible but only in the form of intelligence exchanges, joint training and capacity enhancement.
Security in the strait -- a strategic waterway connecting ports in Europe, the Middle East and Asia -- came under the spotlight following a statement by Adm. Thomas Fargo, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, that U.S. forces might assist in patrolling the strait to prevent terrorists from targeting ships in the waterway.
The U.S. believes the al-Qaeda terrorist network and its regional network Jamaah Islamiyah would like to launch an attack in the strait, where chemical and oil tankers mingle with small craft that could carry suicide attackers.
Singapore was initially open to U.S. involvement in securing the strait, but Indonesia and Malaysia immediately voiced strong reservations.
More than a quarter of the world's goods and oil passes through the narrow strait, which straddle Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and although the waterway has seen no major terrorist acts, piracy is rampant.
Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"