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Jakarta Post

Indonesia seeks US investment in Natuna amid growing superpower rivalry

  • Tri Indah Oktavianti

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, October 29, 2020   /   02:26 pm
Indonesia seeks US investment in Natuna amid growing superpower rivalry This handout photograph taken and released on Oct. 29, 2020 by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry shows US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo (left) posing with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (right) during their meeting in Jakarta. (AFP/Indonesian Foreign Ministry )

Indonesia has invited the United States to invest in the development of Riau Islands’ Natuna regency, one of the archipelago's outer islands in the southern part of the disputed South China Sea, which has become the flashpoint for escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing in the region.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi extended the offer to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his official visit to Jakarta on Thursday.

“I encourage US businesses to invest more in Indonesia, including for projects in the outer islands of Indonesia, such as the Natuna islands,” Retno said after the meeting.

As the minister called for collective contributions between nations to maintain peace, stability and prosperity, Retno said Indonesia had come to an agreement with the US about enhancing cooperation in the defense sector in the Southeast Asia region.

On Oct. 16, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto officially visited Washington DC and met his US counterpart Mark Esper to discuss a bilateral partnership in various sectors and they later agreed, among other things, to enhance maritime and defense security cooperation going forward.

In her statement, Retno emphasized that Indonesia wanted a stable and peaceful South China Sea where international laws, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), were respected and implemented. 

Jakarta and Beijing were caught in a diplomatic spat earlier this year after China's coast guard and fishing vessels were detected within Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone in the North Natuna Sea, which borders Vietnam and Malaysia and is located adjacent to the contested South China Sea.

Read also: Pompeo to visit Jakarta amid increased US-China rivalry

While maintaining its stance as a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute, Indonesia has continued to stand up against China's nine-dash line claims, saying that it has "no international legal basis".

In his statement, Mike Pompeo lauded Indonesia's stance in protecting its sovereignty in the Natuna waters.

“Our law-abiding nations reject the unlawful claims made by the Chinese Communist Party in the South China Sea, as it's clear from Indonesia's courageous leadership on the subject in ASEAN and at the United Nations,” Pompeo said.

Indonesia is among Pompeo’s five-day official visit itinerary to South and Southeast Asia countries, where he has sought to strengthen economic and security ties.

Ahead of the upcoming US presidential election, Pompeo has been aggressively promoting the Indo-Pacific order, a reimagining of the Asia-Pacific region that aims to take the spotlight away from China’s growing influence in the region.

“We welcome the example that Indonesia has set with decisive actions to safeguard its maritime sovereignty around the Natuna Islands,” Pompeo said, “I'm looking forward to cooperating together in new ways to ensure maritime security and protect some of the world's busiest trade routes."

Following his meeting with Retno, Pompeo embarked on a meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. He is later expected to address an event held by GP Ansor, the youth wing of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).