The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to Natuna regency in Riau Islands serves as a signal that Indonesia sees its territorial integrity as a matter of great importance, a minister has said, amid tension between the country and China over the latter’s maneuvers in the North Natuna Sea.
“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 also 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, which was seen by analysts as a power play in defense of Indonesian sovereign rights in the area.
Jokowi’s visit to Natuna on Wednesday is his fourth to the regency, but his first since starting his second and final term in office in October.
“Those [signals] show that Indonesia’s sovereignty is inviolable, non-negotiable,” he went on, “The President has said during the recent Cabinet meeting that Natuna [territorial integrity] is nonnegotiable,” he added.
Over the past week, Jakarta and Beijing have been embroiled in a diplomatic tug-of-war over the latter’s claim in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the North Natuna Sea, which borders Vietnam and Malaysia and is located adjacent to the disputed South China Sea.
The government responded with a series of firm actions, from summoning the Chinese envoy in Jakarta and lodging an official protest with Beijing, to making a show of rejecting China’s illegal claims to the waters and planning to increase its presence in the waters off the Natunas.
Pramono also asserted that the presence of Jokowi — the country’s leader and commander-in-chief — in Natuna served as a symbol that Indonesia “is present” in the region.
The Indonesian Military (TNI) has claimed that Chinese fishing vessels remain in the North Natuna Sea — located at the southern tip of the South China Sea, which China claims as its “traditional fishing grounds”. The Navy and Air Force have deployed at least six warships and four jet fighters, respectively, to secure and patrol Natuna waters.
Pramono went on to say that the state was prepared to strengthen the Air Force and Navy bases in Natuna accordingly.
“Therefore, what the President is doing during the visit is asserting that [Indonesia’s] sovereignty is inviolable,” Pramono said. (sau)