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Jakarta Post

Jokowi off to flashpoint island to send strong message to China

  • Rendi A. Witular

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, June 23, 2016   /  08:34 am
Jokowi off to flashpoint island to send strong message to China Chinese coast guard ship 3303 passes near Imam Bonjol warship 383 as the Indonesian Navy pursues the Han Tan Cou fishing vessel entering Indonesia's Natuna waters on June 17. The Navy caught the China-flagged boat suspected of illegal fishing in Indonesian waters. (Antara/Photo Courtesy of The Navy's Western Region Fleet Command (Koarmabar))

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's visit to Natuna in Riau Islands province on Thursday will send a clear message that Indonesia is "very serious in its attempt to protect its sovereignty", Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Wednesday.

Jokowi will lead a limited Cabinet meeting to discuss development in Natuna Islands on board a warship sailing around Natuna waters on Thursday.

 “In our course of history, we’ve never been this stern [to China]. This is to demonstrate that the President is not taking the issue lightly,” Luhut told The Jakarta Post late Wednesday.

Of the thousands of islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, Natuna Islands and its surrounding waters are the closest to the Nine-Dash Line, a demarcation used by China as the basis of its unilateral claim to a majority of the resource-rich South China Sea.

Unlike the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, Indonesia is not a claimant in the dispute, but around 83,000 square kilometers of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in Natuna is included within the area demarcated by the Nine-Dash Line.

It is on this basis that China’s coast guard and fishing fleet often operate there, claiming the waters to constitute part of the country’s “traditional fishing grounds”.

 “We have already conveyed our position to Beijing, but we want to amplify it again in Natuna; we refuse to acknowledge the Nine-Dash Line and the claims of traditional fishing grounds. We also don’t want any power projections [by major powers in the region], and we want to ensure freedom of navigation,” Luhut added.

The visit came after Beijing's protest to Jakarta on the detention of its citizens caught fishing by the Navy in Indonesian waters last week.


[with corrected version on paragraph 5] 

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