Indonesia has filed a protest to Beijing for alleged territorial violation by a Chinese coastguard vessel around the disputed Natuna waters, saying the ship has trespassed into its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Chinese vessel was also suspected of having illegally fished in the waters.
Indonesia has exclusive rights to the zone, meaning Jakarta has jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in the area. This right has increasingly been violated by China.
“The Foreign Ministry has summoned the Chinese ambassador in Jakarta and conveyed a strong protest regarding this incident. A diplomatic note of protest has also been sent,” Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The statement, however, did not mention when the incident occurred.
The ministry said the Chinese ambassador had noted and would report back to Beijing, but “both sides have decided to maintain good bilateral relations”.
Natuna, an important trade route that is believed to contain large quantities of oil and natural gas, is located between Singapore, the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo. It is just outside China’s nine-dash line, which is used by Beijing to make sweeping claims over most of the South China Sea.
The ministry asserted that Indonesia did not have overlapping jurisdiction with China and Indonesia would never recognize China’s nine-dash line because it contravened the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Currently, Indonesia only has a treaty with Malaysia over the narrow Strait of Malacca.
The nine-dash line is the line drawn on the map of the Chinese government where the country claims the South China Sea region, from the Paracel Islands (occupied by China but claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan) to the Spratly Islands disputed with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China does not publicly contest that Natuna rightfully belongs to Indonesia. However, China has argued that it has rights to fish in the area, claiming that Natuna waters are a traditional Chinese fishing ground.
Indonesia’s Water Police Directorate deploys the police’s biggest patrol vessel around the waters of Natuna to prevent illegal fishing.
China has been building artificial islands in the area, which has irked ASEAN member countries.
In addition to China, other countries, such as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims to the sea. (ggq)