Clarify South China Sea claims, China told

Indonesia says it has yet to receive a response from the country over the dispute

JAKARTA • Indonesia has asked China to clarify its claims over the South China Sea but has yet to receive a response, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday, a day after Indonesia's security chief said Jakarta could take Beijing to court over an island dispute.

Beijing's claim to almost the entire resource-rich sea is shown on Chinese maps with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of South-east Asia. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the waterway.

Last year, General Moeldoko, the then Indonesian armed forces chief, accused China of including parts of the Indonesian-ruled Natuna islands within the nine-dash line.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo's administration departed from its usual low-profile role in the dispute on Wednesday when Security Chief Luhut Panjaitan said Jakarta could take China to an international court if dialogue over the islands failed.

"The position of Indonesia is clear at this stage that we do not recognise the nine-dash line because it is not in line with ... international law," Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir told reporters.

"We asked for clarification on what they mean and what they mean by the nine-dash line. That has not been clarified."

Mr Nasir could not say when the request through diplomatic channels was made to China.

Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China did not dispute Indonesia's sovereignty over the Natunas. But he made no direct mention of China's controversial nine-dash line map which would include the islands.

"On matters of South China Sea territorial and maritime disputes, China has always strived to resolve them peacefully with the coun- tries involved through negotiations and consultation with respect for international law and on the basis of historical fact," Mr Hong was quoted as saying on the ministry's website.

The Philippines has taken China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, a case Beijing refuses to recognise.

For years, China has insisted that disputes with rival claimants be handled bilaterally.

When asked if Indonesia could also take China to court, as Mr Luhut had said, Mr Nasir responded: "We cannot pre-empt things before we know how they evolve. But what is clear is that we are not a claimant state and we don't recognise the issue of the nine-dash line, which we have made clear to China."

Regional leaders are expected to discuss the issue at the Asean meeting later this month.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, chairman of the influential United States Senate Armed Services Committee, has called on the Pentagon to clarify publicly the legal intent of a US patrol last month within 12 nautical miles of an island China has built in the South China Sea.

China reacted angrily to the patrol near Subi Reef by the destroyer USS Lassen on Oct 27, which followed months of US preparation.

Mr McCain, a Republican, said in a letter on Monday to US Defence Secretary Ash Carter that it was vital there should be no misunderstanding about US objectives.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline 'Clarify South China Sea claims, China told'. Print Edition | Subscribe