JAKARTA, Indonesia — President Suharto on Monday advised visiting Philippine President Corazon Aquino, whose government is tackling a 17-year Communist insurgency, to crush communism before it grows too strong.
Suharto's suggested approach contrasts sharply with Aquino's moderate line toward Communist rebels in the Philippines, where she is trying to arrange a cease-fire and persuade the rebels to lay down their arms.
In two hours of wide-ranging talks, Suharto was quoted by an Indonesian spokesman as telling Aquino that he has 20 years' experience in fighting communism.
He said that Communist insurgents must be tackled quickly or they will grow too strong, according to Indonesian Minister of State Sudharmono, Suharto's right-hand man and head of the country's ruling Golkar organization.
Asked at a press conference about Aquino's reaction to the advice, Philippine Deputy Foreign Minister Leticia Shahani said that she had not discussed the matter with Aquino but that in general the Philippine leader takes a more conciliatory approach.
Shahani said that many people had joined the Communist New People's Army of the Philippines, which has an estimated 16,000 men under arms, because of economic conditions and abuse of human rights during 20 years of rule under former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Such people, she said, are different from the "hard core of the Communist Party who are undertaking their struggle through the use of arms and violence and who might wish to subvert the government."
Shahani said that it is not only necessary for what she called the soft core of rebels to surrender but that the government must acquire assistance funds to give them a new start.
Aquino is due to leave Jakarta today for a 36-hour visit to Singapore before returning home Wednesday. It is her first overseas trip since she was swept into office by a civilian-backed military revolt in February.
Aquino brought with her a high-ranking delegation of ministers and her army chief for the troubled southern island of Mindanao, where Muslim rebels are fighting for independence from Manila.
Filipinos have expressed concern in the past that Indonesia might give its support to the Philippine Muslims because more than 90% of Indonesia's 165 million people are Muslims. Suharto, however, told Aquino that he supports her and would not furnish support to the Muslim rebels in her country.
'An Internal Issue'
Shahani told the news conference that "we are heartened to hear from the Indonesians that they regard the Muslim problems in the southern Philippines as an internal issue of the Philippines."
Suharto, who has ruled Southeast Asia's largest country for the past 20 years, is staunchly anti-communist.
A retired general who rose to power after a failed Communist-backed coup in 1965, he outlawed Indonesia's Communist Party, once the third largest in the world, and effectively eliminated it as a threat to his military-backed government.