U.S. to donate old ships to Indonesia

The U.S. Navy plans to donate transport ships and inflatable boats to Indonesia to help it patrol the Malacca Straits, a strategic waterway seen at risk of terrorist attack, Indonesia's defense minister said. "The United States is in the process of renewing its equipment and military weapons, especially its navy," Juwono Sudarsono was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara. "So, some of their LSTs that are 40 years old, but are still operational, will be donated to Indonesia."

Landing Ship Tanks, or LSTs, are naval ships especially designed to transport and deploy troops, vehicles, and supplies onto shore. They were first used in World War II.

Sudarsono said the United States would also donate an unspecified number of dinghies to Indonesia, Antara reported Wednesday. A U.S. embassy spokesman declined immediate comment. Sudarsono said he did not know how many craft were to be handed over, or when.

"What is clear is that this will help the Indonesian Navy safeguard the Malacca Strait," he said. More than 50,000 ships, carrying half the world's oil and a third of its commerce, use the Malacca Strait each year.

The waterway, which is bordered by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, is infested by pirates and there are fears that international terrorists might target ships passing through it. The three countries jointly patrol the waterway.

Last month, the United States lifted a six-year long arms embargo on Indonesia as a reward for its cooperation in the war on terror. The ban was originally imposed to protest alleged human rights abuses by Indonesian troops. Indonesia has since said it will buy Hercules transport aircraft from the United States. Before the ban, the United States was Indonesia's chief military supplier, reports the AP. I.L.

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