Indonesia has rebuffed Chinese claims in the South China Sea (SCS). Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that Indonesia’s economic interests are threatened by the ‘nine-dash’ line, a demarcation China uses to claim the waterbody.
SCS is a key naval passage linking Asia with Africa and Europe. As estimated $3.37 trillion of international trade passes through the SCS and it is believed to be abundant in untapped natural resources such as oil and gas.
China lays claims to 80% of the South China Sea. It is also claimed by Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Speaking at a virtual news conference, Marsudi said that Beijing’s claims impact Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and that the government remains consistent on its position.
EEZ is a concept adopted at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1982), whereby a coastal State assumes jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources in its adjacent section of the continental shelf, taken to be a band extending 200 miles from the shore.
To back up its position on the SCS, Jakarta had sent a letter to the United Nations on May 26. The letter stated that the ‘nine-dash line’demarcation for the sea lacks a basis in international law, citing the 2016 decision by a Hague tribunal. It also rejected Beijing’s historical claims on the sea.
While Indonesian territorial claims in the South China Sea do not directly conflict with China’s, the EEZ around its Natuna archipelago overlaps with the nine-dash line. Chinese fishing vessels have repeatedly operated in the area.
Public sentiment in Indonesia towards China is rising and it has only worsened especially after remains of Indonesian nationals were cast off from Chinese vessels into the ocean. The workers had apparently died from overwork.
As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, Beijing is taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to forward its interests in the disputed water body. It has conducted naval exercises to intimidate other claimants to the South China Sea, bullied Vietnamese and Filipinos vessels and even established new administrative districts on disputed islands.