JAKARTA (Reuters) – The Indonesian Navy has stepped up patrols around its Natuna Islands in the South China Sea after Chinese and US ships were detected nearby in international waters, although there have been no disruption on the part of the ships, a navy official said on Thursday.
Five navy ships, assisted by an air patrol, have been deployed to the northern Natuna Sea to secure the area, Indonesian Navy Western Fleet Commander Arsyad Abdullah told reporters.
“The navy’s position on the North Sea Natuna is very firm in protecting national interests within Indonesian jurisdiction in accordance with national and international law which have been ratified so that there is no tolerance for any violation in the North Sea Natuna, ”Arsyad said. .
In 2017, Indonesia renamed its northern Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea to the North Natuna Sea, as part of a pullback against China’s maritime territorial ambitions.
Arsyad said U.S. and Chinese Navy ships were detected nearby recently, but said they were not disrupting, adding that they were still in international waters.
A multi-week standoff in Natuna occurred in early January last year when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and accompanying fishing boats entered the northern Natuna Sea, prompting the Indonesia to send fighter jets https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia- china-sudchinasea-waters-idUSKBN1Z8146 and mobilizes its own fishermen.
China has not claimed the Natuna Islands themselves, but says it has fishing rights nearby in a self-proclaimed nine-dash line that includes most of the energy-rich South China Sea – a claim disputed by some Southeast Asian country and not internationally recognized.
(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; writing by Fransiska Nangoy; editing by Steve Orlofsky)