Indonesia deploys fighter jets amid stand-off with China

JAKARTA • Indonesia's air force deployed four fighter jets to the South China Sea yesterday amid a stand-off with Beijing after Jakarta protested against Chinese violation of its exclusive economic zone.

The stand-off began in the middle of last month when a Chinese coast-guard vessel, accompanying Chinese fishing boats, entered waters off the coast of Indonesia's northern Natuna Islands, prompting Jakarta to summon Beijing's ambassador.

Colonel Fajar Adriyanto, spokesman for Indonesia's air force, said four F-16 jets had been conducting flights over the islands, though he played down fears of any confrontation with Beijing.

"They're doing standard patrols to protect our sovereign area. It just so happened that they're patrolling Natuna," he said. "We don't have the order to start a war with China."

On Monday, Indonesia said it was mobilising fishermen to the northern Natuna region and had deployed several naval ships.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said yesterday that Beijing had "opened diplomatic channels" with Indonesia since the latest incident, and said "both countries shoulder responsibility for maintaining regional peace and stability".

There has been no negotiation with the Chinese vessels as of yesterday, said Mr Nursyawal Embun, director of sea operations of Indonesia's Maritime Security Agency.

According to ship-tracking website Maritime Traffic, at least two Chinese ships were in waters on the edge of Indonesia's exclusive economic zone yesterday, about 200km off the Riau Islands.

Mr Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister in Indonesia's Cabinet overseeing resources and investment, told reporters yesterday that Indonesia's sovereignty was not negotiable, despite China's economic importance to his country.

"I would not sell our sovereignty for investment," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2020, with the headline 'Indonesia deploys fighter jets amid stand-off with China'. Subscribe