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Indonesia Demands Australia Explain After Embassy Spying Claims

Indonesia is demanding an explanation from Australia after a newspaper reported that its neighbor was using embassies in locations such as Jakarta to conduct electronic spying on Asian governments.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said nations may have the technical capacity to intercept information. “But the cost in terms of trust, in terms of the damage that may be resulting, is something that we must all reflect on,” he told reporters in Perth today, where he is attending a regional meeting. “If Australia was itself subject to such an activity, do you consider it as being a friendly act or not?”

Jakarta has summoned Australia’s ambassador Greg Moriarty, Indonesia Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said by mobile phone message today, without giving further details.

Australian embassies are secretly helping intercept phone calls and data across Asia as part of a U.S.-led global spying network, the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday, citing information from American whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer. U.S. and German officials have so far failed to resolve differences over spying in a meeting prompted by allegations that American intelligence bugged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

Raised Concerns

Australia is aware of Indonesia’s concerns, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on the sidelines of the annual Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation meeting in Perth.

Natalegawa “has raised with me his concerns about allegations in the media recently and I take his concerns about these allegations seriously,” Bishop told reporters today. Australia doesn’t comment on intelligence matters, she said.

Two-way trade between the world’s largest Muslim nation and Australia reached A$14.9 billion ($14.1 billion) in the year to June 30, 2012, according to Australian government figures. Australia’s major exports to Indonesia are wheat, metals including aluminum, copper and iron, and crude. Trade Minister Andrew Robb is working to complete a free-trade agreement with Indonesia.

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