JAKARTA • President Joko Widodo has, for the second time in seven months, observed a massive military drill around the resource-rich Natuna Islands, an area where Indonesian maritime authorities have had a number of run-ins with Chinese vessels.
Joined by 5,900 troops from the Quick Response Team of the Indonesian Military, TNI, last Friday's exercise was larger than the one displayed by the air force that was observed by Mr Joko in October last year. At that time, some 2,000 personnel took part.
The President described the latest exercise as a show of the military's "preparedness" in maintaining the unitary state of Indonesia.
The waters of the Natunas are partly claimed by China by its ambiguous nine-dash line. The area is located at the southern edge of the South China Sea.
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The region is also the site of rampant fish smuggling and poaching by foreign vessels.
"Whether on land, in the sky or on water, our military force is ready when the nation needs it," Mr Joko said after witnessing a parade by the army, navy and air force in Tanjung Datuk on Bunguran Island, the main island of the Natunas.
From the time Mr Joko took office in October 2014 to April this year, Indonesia has destroyed 317 fishing boats confiscated from poachers to underline its seriousness in curbing marine-life poaching.
Last Friday's show of force included a war simulation involving Indonesian-owned Russian-made Sukhoi and American-made F-16 fighter jets, tanks and warships, as well as parachute landings.
The army demonstrated dozens of military vehicles and artillery, including the Giant Bow anti-aircraft cannon, one of which misfired during a rehearsal last Wednesday. Four soldiers were killed and eight others injured in the incident, which was caused by a malfunction in the Chinese-made military gear.
Mr Joko emphasised the need to keep up with evolving weapons technology. He said: "Don't be satisfied because we still have a lot of things to improve, especially when it comes to military equipment."
He was accompanied during the visit by TNI commander, General Gatot Nurmantyo; air force chief of staff, Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto; navy chief of staff, Admiral Ade Supandi; army chief of staff General Mulyono; Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu; Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo and Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung.
Some 23 governors, from Sumatra to Papua, were on Bunguran from last Thursday to witness and take part in the military exercises.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK