Joint patrols part of plan to boost maritime ties: Jakarta

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (centre) talks to Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (right) after a meeting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Oct 26. Ms Bishop is on an official visit to the
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (centre) talks to Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (right) after a meeting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Oct 26. Ms Bishop is on an official visit to the country to boost bilateral ties and attend the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) meeting in Bali.EPA

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that proposed joint naval patrols were part of Jakarta's plan to boost maritime cooperation with Australia.

But Defence Ministry spokesman Djundan Eko Bintoro said the terms of the collaboration, including the exact areas that the patrols will cover, have yet to be discussed in detail.

The move was initiated by Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu during a meeting with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Bali last Friday.

Mr Ryamizard said he had proposed that the two countries conduct joint patrols in the eastern part of the South China Sea in the near future to ensure safer waters, the Jakarta Post reported last Saturday.

"We are sure that we will soon create a plan on how to realise it, and they have more or less agreed," Mr Ryamizard told reporters in Bali after the meeting.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.

Indonesia is not a party to the disputes, but it has grown concerned after Beijing in March said the waters around the Natuna Islands, within Indonesia's exclusive economic zone, are part of its "traditional fishing grounds" and Chinese boats should be free to fish there.

Last month, Indonesia's military chief Gatot Nurmantyo said it will not conduct any new joint military exercises in the South China Sea so as to reinforce the country's neutrality in territorial disputes.

Mr Ryamizard said last Friday that Indonesia has already proposed similar joint patrols with other Asean countries, such as Vietnam and Cambodia.

"We have coordinated and established commitments on how to secure the South China Sea and at least a third of the region has been secured," said the former army general, adding that those areas include waters surrounding Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

"So we've basically secured the region without much commotion."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Joint patrols part of plan to boost maritime ties: Jakarta'. Print Edition | Subscribe