The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has decided not to take part in any joint military activities held in the South China Sea, as the country prefers to maintain security and stability in the disputed waters.
'The government encourages [the military] to maintain security and create stability in the South China Sea,' the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo told journalists at the House of Representatives on
TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Tatang Sulaiman explained that the military activities mentioned by the TNI chief included joint military exercises, joint patrols and any other activities related to the military.
China Daily reported that Minister of Defense and State Councilor of the People's Republic of China Chang Wanquan said last Friday during an informal meeting in Beijing between China and ASEAN that his country was willing to hold a joint drill with the 10 country members to better fulfil the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a major initiative that analysts said would help avoid potential miscalculations to the South China Sea.
'The Chinese side and ASEAN countries will hold joint training on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, as well as a joint exercise for maritime search and disaster relief, in 2016 in the South China Sea,' Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said as quoted by the media.
The idea of arranging a joint activity was to reduce tension in the South China Sea after the US considered sending ships to the disputed waters.
Gatot said that President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's had asked the TNI not to get involved in any activities that would only increase tension and instability in the area.
He added that the military would obey the President's instructions.
Gatot underlined that the TNI would also reject any offers from other countries to hold joint military activities if they were related to the South China Sea.
'So it [the rejection] will not only relate to China, but also other countries,' Gatot said.
Indonesia does not have a direct claim to any of the disputed areas in the South China Sea, which therefore makes it relatively free of any heated conflict with China compared to other ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
Military observer Andi Widjajanto welcomed the TNI's decision to reject China's idea, saying that the issue was too sensitive.
Andi, who previously served as the Cabinet secretary, said that China had an unclear definition of its territorial border and Indonesia should be careful to avoid any possible future problem.
'Indonesia is not a party to the conflict in the South China Sea and Indonesia should be a facilitator to reduce conflict,' he said.
Tatang said that Indonesia has had frequent joint military activities with Singapore and Malaysia, but the exercises were held in their own territories.
Malaysia has slammed China for its construction work on islands in the disputed South China Sea and called it an 'unwarranted provocation'.
'So time will tell as to what China's intention is. In the meantime we have got to accept the reasons given by the government of the People's Republic of China as to the purpose of the development of these islands,' Malaysian Armed Forces chief Zulkefli Mohd Zin said at the Beijing meeting.
'I hope that it is for good purposes and the purposes of all humankind,' he added as quoted by Reuters.
Beijing's move last year to step up the creation of artificial islands, which it says are mostly for civilian purposes, has also drawn strong criticism from Washington.
China has offered assurances that their building work is also for civilian purposes, maritime research and to facilitate safe navigation of ships in that area.
Liu Lin, associate research fellow of the Department of Foreign Military Studies at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said the two drills ' one involving the code for unplanned encounters and the other on humanitarian relief missions ' covered cooperation of high and low sensitivity, respectively.
'This shows China's sincerity in settling the disputes properly and the initiatives are very feasible [...] The Code will instruct the encountering navies to use widely accepted codes of communication and there are also rules set for the accidental encounters of warships,' Liu said, as quoted by China Daily.
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