JAKARTA, Indonesia (June 16, 2011) Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk speaks with Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Soeparno. The two met at Indonesian Navy headquarters to discuss US-Indonesian maritime cooperation. (U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Jeff Davis)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The U.S. Navy will expand its “strong and growing” friendship with the Indonesian Navy, the U.S. 7th Fleet commander said June 17.

Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk made the comments to about 100 students at the Indonesian Navy’s staff college in Jakarta.

His remarks came on the heels of a meeting with Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Soeparno. The two met on Thursday to discuss areas of mutual concern, including piracy, maritime security, and territorial disputes around the region. It was their first meeting since Van Buskirk took command of the 7th Fleet in September, 2010.

Van Buskirk said the annual exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, or CARAT, which concluded in Indonesia earlier this month, would continue to be the centerpiece of U.S.-Indonesia navy-to-navy engagement, but that the two sides would seek to “grow CARAT in scope and depth in the future, while looking for new opportunities outside of CARAT to work together.”

More than 1,500 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel participated in CARAT Indonesia, to include the ships USS Howard, USS Reuben James and USS Tortuga. The exercise featured joint medical, dental and civic action projects ashore, as well as at-sea events including maritime interdiction, formation steaming, gunnery exercises, and anti-piracy drills.

“Our partnership at the navy-to-navy level is growing,” Van Buskirk said. “I believe that is a very good thing.”

Van Buskirk cited several recent examples of engagements between the two navies outside of CARAT, including a visit by USS Reuben James to Jakarta in February that featured combined seminars on anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare; a visit by USS Germantown to Surabaya in March that included an amphibious warfare symposium; and combined mine countermeasures exercises with USS Guardian in May.

Van Buskirk said the U.S. and Indonesia have common maritime interests including freedom of navigation, which is important to keeping the oceans safe for commerce and the development of resources.

“The U.S. and Indonesia have much in common,” Van Buskirk said. “We are both democracies; we both have a free and independent press; we both have multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies; we have both been the victims of terrorism; and we both rely on the seas for our livelihood.”