Indonesia will prosecute the crew of eight from a China-flagged fishing boat who were arrested last Saturday for poaching near the Natunas, according to its laws, said the country's chief security minister.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, however, said Jakarta will continue to engage Beijing in dialogue to resolve their latest dispute arising from the intervention by a Chinese coast guard vessel in the failed seizure of the fishing boat by the Indonesian authorities.
"Indonesia and China are good friends, but our territorial integrity must be upheld," he told The Straits Times yesterday.
"That is why our Foreign Minister is intensively communicating with her Chinese counterpart."
Tensions flared between Indonesia and China on Monday after the South-east Asian giant protested against the actions of a vessel from China's coast guard.
Philippine boat 'used firebombs'
BEIJING • Philippine fishermen threw firebombs at Chinese law enforcement vessels in the South China Sea, China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday, after Philippine media said fishermen had been struck by bottles hurled from Chinese coast guard ships.
China and the Philippines have long exchanged accusations about each other's behaviour in the disputed South China Sea.
China claims most of the energy-rich waters, through which about US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. Apart from the Philippines, neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
Philippine media said this week that a group of fishermen had been chased away from Scarborough Shoal by Chinese coast guards who hurled bottles at them. The fishermen then responded with rocks, the reports said.
Asked about the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Scarborough Shoal - known by Beijing as Huangyan Island - was Chinese territory that Philippine fishermen had been fishing illegally in.
"Chinese official ships advised the illegally stationed Philippine trawlers to leave, in accordance with the law, but they refused to obey," she told a daily news briefing.
China had strengthened its "management" around the shoal, she added without elaborating.
A spokesman for the Philippines Foreign Ministry said: "We can't comment at this time as we are still awaiting the official report from our concerned agencies on the incident."
Indonesia had accused it of breaching its sovereign rights when the Chinese patrol boat forcibly prevented the local maritime authorities from detaining a fishing boat in its territorial waters.
China, however, had maintained that the fishing boat Kway Fey was "in traditional Chinese fishing grounds", a claim Indonesia has strongly rebutted.
The incident at the weekend, however, was not the only incursion the Indonesian maritime authorities responded to in recent days.
TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY AT STAKE
Indonesia and China are good friends, but our territorial integrity must be upheld. That is why our Foreign Minister is intensively communicating with her Chinese counterpart.
MR LUHUT PANDJAITAN, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, on the fishing spat.
A government source told The Straits Times yesterday that an Indonesian patrol boat had tried to intercept two Taiwan-flagged vessels in its waters along the Strait of Malacca, about 100km from the north-eastern coast of Sumatra island, on Monday.
Officers from the Hiu 4 had spotted the Sheng Te Tsai and Lien I Hsing vessels poaching in Indonesian waters at about 3am, with the crew on board allegedly preparing a "long-line fishing net" .
The Hiu 4 fired warnings shots over the bows of the two vessels after they ignored its order to halt.
Taiwan's Central News Agency reported yesterday that the fishing vessels evaded capture and later lodged a complaint against the Indonesians, accusing the patrol boat of firing 10 shots at them.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday demanded that Indonesia provide evidence to support its claims that two fishing boats were poaching in its territorial waters and had attempted to ram the Indonesian patrol boat.
The ministry also said in a statement that if the Indonesian authorities are unable to provide any further explanation over the shooting, Taipei "will not rule out the possibility of lodging a formal protest".
The Central News Agency report said Indonesia's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti showed the agency video footage of the pursuit. Ms Susi said a rope can be seen in the video hanging from the right side of the Sheng Te Tsai, which indicated that it was in the middle of a fishing operation.
The incident involving China's fishing vessel was not the only altercation in recent weeks. China last Wednesday expressed its "serious concerns" after claiming that Argentina sank a Chinese trawler for alleged illegal fishing off the Argentine coast.