Indonesia has stepped up air and Naval patrols around its Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, after reportedly spotting Chinese and US vessels nearby. This comes amid reports that a Chinese survey vessel did operate in the Tuna Block — an important oil and gas field in the area.
Jakarta, however, maintained that the vessels were on international waters and it “had not caused any disturbance,” reported Al Jazeera.
Indonesian Navy western fleet commander Arsyad Abdullah told reporters last week that five navy vessels, assisted by an air patrol, have been deployed in North Natuna Sea to secure the area.
“The Navy’s position on the North Natuna Sea is very firm in protecting national interests within the Indonesian jurisdiction in accordance with national law and international law that have been ratified so that there is no tolerance for any violations in the North Natuna Sea,” Arsyad said.
Natuna Islands, now administered by Indonesia, comes in the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. In 2017, Indonesia renamed the northern reaches as North Natuna Sea to counter China’s maritime territorial ambitions.
Though China has not yet laid claims on Natuna island, the northern part of the Natuna Sea also overlaps with the so-called “nine-dash line” that China uses to exert its sweeping claims in the South China Sea.