JAKARTA • Indonesia's air force is holding its largest military exercise this week near some of its islands in the South China Sea, in a show of sovereignty over the gas-rich area on the fringe of territory claimed by China, officials told Reuters.
Indonesian air force spokesman Jemi Trisonjaya said more than 2,000 air force personnel were taking part in the 14-day exercise, which includes the deployment of Indonesia's fleet of Russian Sukhoi and F-16 fighter jets.
"We want to show our existence in the area. We have a good enough air force to act as a deterrent," Reuters quoted him as saying yesterday.
Other branches of the Indonesian armed forces will not take part in the exercise, which ends tomorrow, according to Reuters.
President Joko Widodo will arrive in Ranai, the capital city of Natuna Regency, to observe the exercise tomorrow. It will be his second visit to the area since China claimed that the waters off the Natunas were part of its traditional fishing grounds earlier this year. Mr Joko headed to the waters on board a naval warship in June accompanied by officials in his Cabinet.
Indonesia is not a party to the South China Sea disputes, but Chinese fishing boats have been caught poaching in its waters.