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Asia needs new military balance, says top Indonesia general

Indonesia's top general, military commander Moeldoko, has said that Asia needs a new military balance which is not led by one major power. The comments came as Indonesia also launched an anti-'Islamic State' operation.

As the region becomes increasingly concerned over China's rapid expansion in the South China Sea, Moeldoko said on Monday that Asia needs "a new balance."

"There are significant changes in the stable and calm conditions that existed in the region a decade ago," he added.

As a result of heightening tensions in the region, Indonesia plans to upgrade its military forces in Natuna and Tanjung Datu, areas near China's claims in South China Sea.

The potentially energy-rich areas are at the center of ongoing disputes between China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. China denies, however, that its actions in its own territory are provocative.

Moeldoko, who retires as military commander in July, wants to bring together the US, Japan, China and Southeast Asian nations at a regional defense summit next year in the hopes of easing tensions.

Anti-'Islamic State'

Speaking from Indonesia's military headquarters on Monday, Moeldoko also announced that Indonesia's military has launched its first counter-terrorism operation since the Jakarta hotel bombings. The offence will focus on the eastern island of Sulawesi in a bid to track down suspected 'Islamic State' (IS) militants.

"We have one battalion now stationed there to observe and understand the terrain," Moeldoko said, adding that the operation would last for six months.

Economic enticement

The region's geopolitical tensions were also a key theme at Asia's edition of the World Economic Forum in Indonesia on Monday. Some 700 business chiefs and government leaders were due to descend upon the event, known as "Asia's Davos." President Joko Widodo hopes to use the forum to

lure investors and show his commitment

to reform.

Indonesia has enjoyed strong growth in recent years, driven by demand for its natural resources, foreign investment and a fast-emerging middle class. But there are fears that tensions in the South China sea could undermine the hard-won economic gains.

Indonesia is currently 114th in the World Bank's latest rankings on the ease of doing business, out of 189 countries.

ksb/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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