The United States has put a high priority on preventing Indonesia from sliding further into instability, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Saturday.
"The potential for instability has been high on our list for a while," Adm. Joseph W. Prueher said in an interview with The Associated Press.The commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, on a three-country tour of Southeast Asia, said Indonesia's economic crisis has caught "the attention of us all."
He pointed to a steady stream of high-level U.S. visitors who have visited the region recently, including Commerce Secretary William Daley and Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale arrives in Jakarta on Monday to try to persuade Indonesian President Suharto to keep commitments he made to obtain a $40 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
Prueher predicted a "time of turbulence" in the world's fourth-most populous country and stressed the importance of U.S. Involvement.
"It is being worked on the economic front, the political front, and the military front to try to help Indonesia get a firm grip on their situation," he said. "It's the primary discussion topic everywhere we go."
"We are staying in steady communication with" the Indonesian military, Prueher added. The Indonesian military plays a central role in ensuring domestic stability.
The sprawling archipelago has seen its currency, the rupiah, lose more than 70 percent of its value since Southeast Asia's currency woes began last summer.
Runs on staple foods, bank and business closures, rising unemployment, and sporadic rioting have sent jitters through world markets.
Suharto, walking a fine line between angry crowds at home and tough IMF demands, is running unopposed in elections that open Sunday.