JAKARTA (The Straits Times/ANN): President Joko Widodo flew to the Natuna Islands on Wednesday (Jan 8) amid a stand-off between Indonesian warships and Chinese coast guard vessels and fishing boats in the rich fishing grounds between Malaysia and Borneo.
His fourth visit to the regency of around 81,000 inhabitants, which is part of Riau Islands province, came just two days after the President asserted that Indonesia‘s territorial integrity was “non-negotiable”.
Shortly after his arrival in the Natunas, Joko, better known as Jokowi, visited the newly opened Selat Lampa Integrated Maritime and Fisheries Centre, which began operating last October. It is equipped with a dock and an integrated cold storage among other things.
“I am coming here to ensure law enforcement pertaining to our sovereign rights over marine natural resources in the EEZ. The Navy and the Maritime Security Agency are here to guarantee that the laws are enforced,” he was quoted as saying by the State Secretariat in a statement.
Indonesia has stepped up efforts against intrusions of the Chinese fleet since last week. The military has deployed six warships, one maritime patrol aircraft and one surveillance aircraft to monitor the situation and the Maritime Security Agency has also deployed two patrol vessels for the same purpose in the Natunas.
In the previous instance of a major intrusion in 2016, the Indonesian president led a Cabinet meeting on a warship in the waters off the Natuna Islands. Jakarta has also renamed an area close to the contested South China Sea into North Natuna Sea.
Separately, without referring to China and its claims over the South China Sea, Indonesia‘s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Wednesday reiterated that her government rejected claims that were incompatible with and not recognised by international laws.