Let's talk about the South China Sea - the signals from Indonesia's initiative

The proposed maritime security meeting with other Asean members next month comes amid growing Chinese pressure on other claimant states.

A Chinese coastguard ship seen from an Indonesian naval ship during a patrol in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the north of the Natuna islands on Jan 11, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS
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Last month, the Indonesian media reported an intriguing development: The head of the country's maritime security agency (known as Bakamla), Vice-Admiral Aan Kurnia, had invited his counterparts from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam to a meeting in February to discuss the South China Sea dispute.

According to Admiral Aan, the meeting would enable officials from the six countries to "share experiences and foster brotherhood" and "present a coordinated approach" so as to "respond in the field when we face the same 'disturbance'". Although he did not mention China by name, it was clear from recent incursions into Indonesia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by Chinese fishing boats and coastguard vessels who he thought was causing the disturbance.

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