An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea.
The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea.
The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said.
“We asked them to move out, as it was Indonesia’s EEZ, but they insisted that it is China’s ‘nine-dash line’ territory. Our officers at the vessel argued with them until they moved out,” Kurnia said, adding that he reported the incident to Indonesian government ministers.
“Finally, the Chinese coast guard vessel [set] off from North Natuna Sea on Monday 11:20am,” he said.
China’s “nine-dash line” delineates its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea. A 2016 international arbitration ruling involving the Philippines invalidated most of China’s sweeping claims to the sea, but China has ignored the ruling and called it a sham.
Indonesia does not have a territorial claim to the South China Sea, but a section of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone that includes natural gas fields lies within China’s “nine-dash line.” Chinese ships have regularly entered the area Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea, causing tensions between the countries.
Chinese ships also regularly patrol off the island of Borneo and near James Shoal (Zengmu Shoal, 曾母暗沙) east of the Natuna Islands (納土納), China’s southernmost territorial claim, which Malaysia says belongs to it.
The South China Sea accounts for more than 10 percent of the global fish catch, and surrounding states have taken increasingly extreme measures to ensure they obtain their share.
Stocks have declined drastically amid overfishing and the destruction of coral reefs, to the point that they might be on the verge of collapse, according to some studies.
The Indonesian patrol ship, the KN Pulau Nipah 321, has been deployed for patrols in Indonesia’s western maritime zone until November.
The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has communicated with the Chinese embassy to clarify the coast guard’s presence, spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said.
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