torsdag 9. januar 2020

Indonesia President Visits Natuna Amid China Tensions

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday reaffirmed his country’s sovereignty during a visit to a group of islands at the edge of the South China Sea that China claims as its traditional fishing area. Widodo, accompanied by top military officials, toured Natuna Islands on a naval ship in a move designed to send a message to Beijing amid recent tensions between the two countries. “Natuna is part of Indonesia’s territory, there is no question, no doubt,” Widodo said in a speech after the trip. “There is no bargaining for our sovereignty.”

His visit came a week after China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a news briefing in Beijing insisted that Chinese fishermen are free to conduct activities in their traditional fishing ground, which partly overlaps with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. “Whether the Indonesian side accepts it or not, nothing will change the objective fact that China has rights and interests over the relevant waters,” Geng said.

Geng’s statement drew nationwide indignation in Indonesia and prompted the military to beef up its forces at the islands. Although China has been making such claims for years, recently dozens of Chinese fishing boats, escorted by its coast guard vessels, were reportedly making more aggressive moves in the area and ignoring Indonesia’s warnings to leave.