Indonesia has made it clear that the Natuna Islands is its sovereign territory by opening a military base on the edge of South China Sea. The base is located in Selat Lampa on Natuna Besar Island, one of the outermost areas and more than 200 kilometers off Borneo Island. The Natuna Islands are part of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
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Natuna Islands Military Base
Indonesian Defence Force Chief Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto said the military base will serve as a ‘deterrent’ for Chinese colonialism. During the inauguration ceremony, which was on Tuesday, Hadi said the outpost is designed to work as a deterrent against any potential security threats, particularly on the border areas.
“The new base at Selat Lama, the island’s major port, has a hangar for an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron. The base will be improved in accordance with the threat levels, while the personnel there are prepared to join in any military operation.”
The Indonesian President Joko Widodo stressed the Indonesian government was ready to make clear that the Natuna Islands with a population of 169,000 are its sovereign territory. “If you want us to fight, yes, together we will do it,” he said but not specifically referring to the new base but asserting that he was ready to fight China or any other claimant, for the resource-rich territory.
In 2017, Widodo said countries involved in the South China Sea dispute should engage in concrete cooperation. He said such cooperation would be an important step towards ensuring peace in the disputed waters.
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“Before any situation erupts, we should undertake a form of concrete cooperation, for example doing joint research in maritime resources, also working together to improve the maritime infrastructure in the area and then developing the fishing industry. I believe there are many areas that can be worked upon together,” he proposed.
According to ABS-CBN News, the Indonesian government had unveiled an updated national map in 2017. The country’s EEZ north of the Natuna Islands was renamed the North Natuna Sea. While China recognizes Indonesian sovereignty over the Natuna Islands, it insists the two countries have overlapping claims to maritime rights and interests in the area that need to be resolved.