China-Indonesia maritime stand-off

Indonesia

Dozens of Chinese vessels that were fishing in Indonesia’s¬†Exclusive Economic Zone off the disputed island of¬†Natuna began leaving the area Jan. 9, after days of stand-off.¬†Indonesia¬†deployed eight warships and four fighter jets to the area in response to the presence of the Chinese vessels, and¬†summoned Beijing’s¬†ambassador in Jakarta to complain. A military statement said: “Our Navy and air force are armed and have been deployed to the North Natuna Sea [to]¬†drive out the foreign vessels.” China was reported to have sent three coast guard cutters into the area during the stand-off. The Natuna archipelago, off the northwest coast of Borneo, occupies a particularly strategic spot in the South China Sea. Its waters contain significant oil and gas reserves, and it guards the eastern opening of the narrow Malacca Strait, a critical chokepoint for¬†shipping lanes. The¬†archipelago falls within China’s¬†“nine-dash line,” an area covering nearly the entirety of the South China Sea.

“We urge China to explain the legal basis and provide clear a definition for its claims on Indonesian EEZ based on 1982 UNCLOS,” said a statement from the Indonesia ¬†Ministry of Foreign Affairs, refering to the¬†United Nations Convention on¬†the Law of the Sea.

Amid the stand-off, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo made a visit to the Natuna Regency, as the archipelago is administratively known. “This visit shows that the Indonesian government, especially the President, is paying serious attention to the issue of Natuna,”¬†Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said. Pramono cited a similar case in which Jokowi asserted Indonesia’s sovereignty in the region in 2016, when the president held a limited Cabinet meeting on board a warship in Natuna waters. (Channel News Asia, News.com.au, SCMP, Jakarta Post)