Leaders from the twenty-one nations of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC, have agreed to step up action against international terrorism. In a statement issued in Los Cabos, Mexico, the leaders said, "Terrorism is a direct challenge to APEC's goals of free, open and prosperous economies and an affront to the fundamental values that APEC members share."
APEC nations -- including the U.S., the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Australia -- represent some sixty percent of the global gross domestic product and one-quarter of the world's Muslims. Moreover, twenty-one of the world's top seaports and twenty-three of the world's busiest airports are in APEC countries. The need to protect these sites is obvious.
In addition to increasing seaport and airport security, APEC nations will be closely monitoring the type of charities used as fronts by terrorist groups. A major effort will also be made to protect Internet users from cyber-terrorists.
Several APEC nations are facing a direct terrorist threat from al-Qaida. Jemaah Islamiya, an al-Qaida affiliated group, seeks to establish a radical Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the southern Philippines, all members of APEC. Jemaah Islamiya operations chief, Riduan Isamuddin [RID-wahn is-ah-MOO-din], known as Hambali [HAHM-bah-lee], has also been linked to terrorist attacks or plots in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Indonesian authorities have arrested Jemaah Islamiya leader Abu Bakar Bashir [AH-boo-BAH-kahr BAH-SHEER].
The need for closer cooperation against terrorism in Southeast Asia was made clear by the savage terrorist bombings in Bali, in which more than one hundred-eighty people were killed and some three hundred were wounded. Many of these victims were Australian citizens. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill. In a joint communique, the U.S. and Australia reaffirmed their "undiminished support for the global war on terrorism." Recognizing that "no country can be immune to terrorism, Australia and the United States called upon all governments to adopt stringent measures to end all forms of terrorism and to deny terrorists the means to conduct their insidious activities."