JAKARTA - The Indonesian Navy has intercepted and detained a Chinese vessel and its crew for fishing illegally in Indonesia's waters off the Natuna islands in the South China Sea, a navy commander said, in at least the third such incident since March.
Colonel Arif Badruddin, commander of Ranai Naval Base in Riau Islands province, told The Straits Times on Sunday (June 19) the navy's warships spotted the China-flagged Yueyandong Yu 19038 fishing boat in Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) during a naval exercise on Friday.
An EEZ is a zone extending 200 nautical miles from shore over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Col Arif said the navy detected radio chatter among Chinese vessels in Indonesia's EEZ and deployed support aircraft to locate the poachers before the warships made their approach.
The Yueyandong Yu tried to evade capture by zig-zagging across the waves, said Col Arif, hence warning shots had to be fired by the warship KRI Imam Bonjol.
"Our warning shots were ignored, so as per standard procedure we shot towards the bow (of the Yueyandong Yu) to stop the ship," he added.
According to Col Arif, two Chinese Coast Guard vessels with registration numbers 3303 and 2501 tried to intervene in the arrest of the Yueyandong Yu at sea but were unsuccessful because three other Indonesian warships arrived to back the KRI Imam Bonjol.
"This is the third incident where Chinese Coast Guard boats have tried to intervene in our arrests," he said, adding that the Yueyandong Yu and its crew, one of whom is a woman, are now at Ranai Naval Base for further investigations.
Last month, the navy detained a China-flagged vessel, Gui Bei Yu 27088, and eight Chinese crew members suspected of fishing illegally in the Natuna Sea - also after having to fire warning shots.
Similarly in March, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel intervened and freed the Chinese fishing boat, KM Kway Fey, after it was held by an Indonesian patrol. Jakarta later summoned the Chinese envoy to explain its coast guard's actions.
Such incidents involving Indonesian naval security forces and Chinese fishing boats in the Natunas comes amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea, where China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.