Beijing [China], December 29 (ANI): China is using its pressure tactics on Indonesia designed to halt oil and natural gas development projects by Jakarta in the South China Sea.
The exploratory drilling began in July near the Natuna islands within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, which overlaps China’s expansive “nine-dash line” territorial claim covering much of the sea, Nikkei Asia reported.
It further reported that in addition to the protests, China has sent coast guard vessels into the area to increase pressure, Indonesian government sources said, citing eyewitness accounts.
Jakarta, which contends that no territorial dispute with China exists, has not disclosed Beijing’s protests. Indonesia apparently regards a public response to the protests as tantamount to acknowledging the existence of a dispute. The round of drilling was completed in late November, Nikkei Asia reported citing Vice Adm. Aan Kurnia, who heads the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency, known as Bakamla as saying.
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Beijing has intensified activity near the Natuna islands since 2019, escalating tensions with Jakarta.
In May 2020, Indonesia sent the United Nations a letter rejecting Beijing’s historical claims in the sea indicated by its nine-dash line maps. China, in turn, sent a letter to the UN that maintains the claims in the South China Sea while seeking a solution through negotiations. Indonesia refused to come to the table, Nikkei Asia reported.
China’s aggressive maritime activity echoes its strategy over the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyu.
From the beginning of the year through Sunday, Chinese Coast Guard vessels have entered Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkakus in the East China Sea a total of 40 days, Nikkei Asia reported citing the Japan Coast Guard.
According to the media outlet, Indonesia and the U.S. are building a joint training facility for coast guard personnel near Natuna. The two nations held their biggest joint military exercise to date this August, spanning three locations in Indonesia. The drills simulated island defenses.
The conflict over the Natunas has worsened Indonesian sentiment toward China. About 25 citizens protested China’s incursions into Indonesian territorial waters on December 8 in front of the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, Nikkei Asia reported citing a police statement.
Meanwhile, Jakarta wants to avoid an accidental military flare-up with its top trading partner. Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto held online talks with his Chinese counterpart on November 30 and stressed his desire to build trust. (ANI)