Indonesia makes formal protest over incident involving Chinese coastguard vessel
NEW: China says vessel didn't enter Indonesian territorial waters
Standoff involved a Chinese trawler that Indonesia says was fishing in its waters
Indonesia has made a formal diplomatic protest to Beijing after a standoff involving a Chinese fishing vessel in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that a Chinese coastguard vessel had infringed Indonesia’s sovereign rights and he had discussed the matter with Chinese embassy representatives.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press briefing that the coastguard ship did not enter Indonesian territorial waters and it went to assist a fishing vessel “being attacked in traditional Chinese fishing grounds.”
The Jakarta Post reported that Indonesia tried to capture a Chinese trawler it believed was illegally fishing in its waters in the disputed South China Sea Sunday when a Chinese coastguard vessel intervened, colliding with the ship to prevent it being towed away.
“We want to protest strongly and deliver a note containing the following information: first the infringement by the Chinese coastguard on Indonesian sovereign and jurisdiction rights in the Exclusive Economy Zone (EEZ) as well as in our waters,” Marsudi told a news conference Monday.
“Other violations committed by the Chinese coastguard (are) breaching the sovereignty of the territorial sea of Indonesia.”
China called on Indonesia to release the fishermen it detained during the standoff.
“It is hoped that the Indonesian side would bear in mind the general picture of bilateral relations and properly handle this incident,” Hua said.
The South China Sea is home to a messy string of maritime disputes that pit multiple countries against each other.
Indonesia is not one one of the claimants but it has boosted its defenses around the Natuna islands, which overlap with China’s “nine-dash line.”
China does not object to Indonesia’s sovereignty of the Natuna Islands, and Jakarta doesn’t claim any of the Spratly Islands or the Paracel Islands – home to the most heated disputes.
Tensions have risen in the contested waters after China embarked on a massive land reclamation program in 2014, turning sandbars and reefs into islands equipped with ports, airstrips and lighthouses.
China has also warned U.S. warships and military aircraft approaching the islands.