Jakarta 'to summon Chinese ambassador' over Natuna sea incident

Boats at Scarborough Shoal, which is caught in the South China Sea dispute, are shown in this handout photo provided by Planet Labs, and captured on March 12.
Boats at Scarborough Shoal, which is caught in the South China Sea dispute, are shown in this handout photo provided by Planet Labs, and captured on March 12.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesian minister to act in response to Natuna Sea incident over illegal Chinese fishing boat

Indonesia's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti plans to summon the Chinese ambassador in Jakarta today over an incident in the Natuna Sea involving an illegal Chinese fishing boat.

"Tomorrow, I will call the Chinese ambassador to my office," Ms Susi told reporters at her residence yesterday. "Their government should not stand behind illegal and unregulated fishing."

Ms Susi said the Indonesian authorities intercepted the Chinese vessel, KM Kway Fey, and arrested eight of its crew after it was detected fishing illegally in waters near the disputed South China Sea. A Chinese coast guard vessel intervened and, according to Detik news, collided with the Kway Fey while it was being towed by an Indonesian ship. As a result, the Chinese fishing vessel managed to evade detention.

 

Ms Susi, who is known for her hardline stance against illegal fishing and has authorised the blowing up of vessels caught doing so in Indonesian waters, said a diplomatic note would be sent to the Chinese.

She insisted that the Kway Fey be taken to task. "I want the ship to be blown up here," she said.

A Foreign Ministry official in Jakarta, Mr Edi Yusuf, told French news agency Agence France- Presse the ministry would also summon the Chinese envoy once it received more details about Saturday's incident. The Chinese ambassador is currently out of town so the charge d'affaires would be summoned, according to Mr Edi.

The incident in the Natunas comes amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea because of overlapping claims involving Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. China has laid claim to most of the South China Sea, occupying more reefs and outcrops in these waters and building artificial islands including airstrips on some of them.

Indonesia is not a party to the dispute in the waterway, a key conduit for global trade estimated at US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) a year.

Many here, however, have raised concerns over China's inclusion of the resource-rich Natuna Islands in its so-called "nine-dash line" which remains the basis for Beijing's claim for sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

In a related development, Philippine officials yesterday hailed a new accord giving the US military access to five of its bases, saying this would strengthen the nation's defensive capabilities and maritime security. Under the pact, US forces would be able to rotate through five Philippine bases including those close to the South China Sea.

One of the bases is Antonio Bautista Air Base in the western Philippine island of Palawan, facing the South China Sea. Another is Basa Air Base north of Manila, home of the country's main fighter wing, which is also close to disputed waters.

Philippine and US officials meeting in Washington on Friday said they had agreed to the rotation of US military personnel under the Enhanced Defence Co-operation Agreement, which went into effect in January.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta 'to summon Chinese envoy''. Print Edition | Subscribe