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Bush Promises to Help Indonesian Victims of Tsunami


President Bush is promising ongoing help for the victims of last December's Indian Ocean tsunami.

They focused on the tsunami and building better ties between Washington and Jakarta. During a brief session with reporters following their talks, President Bush praised the Indonesian leader's courage in the wake of the disaster, as well as his commitment to reform.

President Yudhoyono, who was in office only a few months when the tsunami occurred, spoke of a desire to improve cooperation with the United States as his country seeks to rebuild its economy and strengthen its democratic institutions.

He made specific mention of his intention to implement further reforms in the Indonesian military. The United States suspended military aid to Indonesia 13 years ago because of human rights violations by the Indonesian army: "I do hope in the future we can move ahead with the full normalization of the military to military relations."

President Bush noted the United States has already resumed a military education program that enables Indonesian soldiers to study in America: "The president told me he is in the process of reforming the military and I believe him. So this is the first step toward what will be formal military to military cooperation."

After their formal meeting, the two presidents took part in a White House ceremony honoring Americans of Asian-Pacific heritage.

President Yudhoyono told the story of two young girls affected by the tsunami: an Indonesian who lost her family in the disaster, and an American who raised money to help the victims. He read from their correspondence and spoke of the ties across the Pacific that resulted from the tragedy.

President Bush said the tsunami also brought two countries closer together, and vowed once again to provide long term assistance: "The people of your country need to know -- and the people of the countries affected by the tsunami really need to know -- when America gives a pledge to help, we will keep our word. And when America says we will stand with you, we mean it. So Mr. President please take this message back to the people of Indonesia."

This was Mr. Yudhoyono's first visit to the White House since his election, although the two leaders did meet last November when both were in Santiago, Chile, to attend the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

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