China has made it abundantly clear: no one is immune from their making up the rules as they seek to expand their sphere of influence in the South Pacific. In another incident of territorial dispute, China has recently claimed the waters surrounding the Natuna Islands are “traditional fishing grounds.” China has acknowledged the islands belong to Indonesia; however, the waters immediately surrounding them apparently belong to China. Who knew?!
The Indonesian Navy came close to another standoff with its Chinese counterpart on Friday (27/05) when it intercepted a Chinese fishing vessel in the waters off the Natuna Islands, a military spokesman said on Sunday.
Maj. Josdy Damopoli, a spokesman for the Fourth Naval Base in Tanjungpinang, Riau Islands province, said the Indonesian frigate Oswald Siahaan 354 intercepted the fishing vessel Gui Bei Yu while a Chinese coastguard vessel stood by as officials boarded the fishing vessel to apprehend its crew.
Although acknowledging that the Natuna Islands belong to Indonesia, China has claimed the waters around it as its “traditional fishing grounds.” On March 19, an Indonesian patrol boat intercepted a Chinese boat fishing illegally in Natuna’s waters but a Chinese coastguard vessel intervened and prevented Indonesian officials from confiscating the boat.
The incident, which sparked diplomatic tensions between the two countries, was eventually shrugged off as “a misunderstanding.”
Josdy said there have been two more incidents since March where Chinese coastguard vessels were seen patrolling the waters around the Natuna Islands as authorities pursued Chinese fishing vessels for illegally entering Indonesian territorial waters.
“At the time, the pursuit [of the fishing vessels] involved a tiny patrol boat belonging to the KKP [the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries]. But this time [the Chinese coastguard vessel] did not dare to interrupt because the chase involved a frigate,” Josdy told Detik.com on Sunday.